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Longstanding and vocal supporter of the main opposition New Democratic Party, businessman Kendol “Kenlyn” Neverson, on Sunday, used the party’s 39th annual convention to honour former party leader, Arnhim Eustace, who stepped down last November, after 16 years, and Godwin Friday, who replaced him.

Neverson rallied the crowd at the Layou Hard Court, saying he was “happy and proud” to be an NDP supporter for many years, especially under Eustace’s leadership.

Eustace, who has been Member of Parliament for East Kingstown since 1998, led the NDP from October 2000 — five months before it was voted out of office — until last November.

Although the party lost four elections under his leadership, he was able to build it to the point where it came within one seat of taking office, up from a 12-3 deficit.

Neverson said he has spent many years, especially since the NDP went into opposition, and has taken the party “on my shoulder for many years, every morning to defend Arnhim Eustace and the New Democratic Party…

Neverson presents a plaque former NDP president, Arnhim Eustace. (iWN photo)

“Today, I want to say to the candidates, … to warn them that we, the supporters of the New Democratic Party, we have heard the attacks from the ULP on all these candidates”.

He said he remembers when, in 2005, the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) called then first-time candidate, Roland “Patel” Matthews, a yam digger, but NDP supporters did not give up on him.

Matthews went on to be elected Member of Parliament for North Leeward in 2010, his second attempt, and retained the seat in the 2016 elections.

Neverson further recalled “the attack that [was] put on Ben Exeter”, a first-time candidate who failed to win Central Leeward for the NDP in the 2015 vote.

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He said he also remembers that it was said that Nigel “Nature” Stephenson — who was elected MP for South Leeward in 2010 on his second attempt and retained the seat in 2015 — was not mingling and mixing and repeatedly pointed out that Daniel Cummings, now MP for West Kingstown had stoned a church.

“And we never give up. We heard what they said when Ralph Gonsalves said about Major St. Clair Leacock: that he would never see Parliament.  And Major, we stick with you and we make sure that you are in the House of Parliament,” he said of Leacock, who is into a second term as MP for Central Kingstown.

“Ladies and gentlemen, remember when we heard that Arnhim Eustace is too soft like a smoke. Today, we are out to congratulate Arnhim Eustace for a well done job.”

Neverson said that NDP supporters have heard about Friday and MP for the Southern Grenadines, Terrance Ollivierre, that they were not doing what they are supposed to.

But he congratulated Grenadine residents for their strong support of the NDP.

Neverson said that after listening — 16 years ago — to Eustace’s predictions about what the country should expect economically, he made certain decisions.

“I realise I doesn’t have that sort of education where I can perform my duty in the Public Service and when I listen to Mr. Eustace, I come to a conclusion that [I] must made a decision for my own benefit.”

Neverson, who operates a shop in Little Tokyo, said he decided to buy a taxi.

Neverson presents a plaque to NDP leader, Dr. Godwin Friday. (iWN photo)

He told the convention that he was among those who had said that Friday couldn’t lead the NDP because he is “too soft”.

But he said Friday has always given Eustace his support.

“But Dr. Friday, I want to say to you that your time is here and you have to rise and prove to us that you’re willing and ready to lead us. But one of our problems is not our leader. We have always had leaders ready to lead us. The problem is us as the supporters. When our leaders say they are ready to go, you will heard many of us on radio, but when we are looking for you in your numbers, you’re not there.”

He called on party supporters to stand with the new leader, saying that he takes his stand and pledges his support for Friday.

Neverson presented Eustace with a plaque, thanking him for his “valuable, distinguished contribution to the NDP and the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines” and wishing him and his family the best for the future.”

He presented a plaque to Friday, saying, “congratulations and best wishes on your elevation to president of the NDP”.

Also during Sunday’s convention, Nick Francis, president of the Young Democrats, the youth arm of the NDP, presented a plaque to Eustace on behalf of the group.

The Young Demz expressed deepest gratitude for his “many years of service to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Thank you, Mr. Eustace, for showing us the true meaning of service above self and for being an example for others to follow. You will forever hold a special place in our hearts,” Francis read the citation as saying.

In his response, Eustace said he was “surprised and pleased” to have received the plaque, “especially from the young arm of the party”.

He also expressed appreciation to all the people who have individually written to him or sent cards thanking him for his service.

“It was a labour of love,” he said.