With the recent spate of killings and the resulting unease among residents of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) says that the social and spiritual redemption charter that it presented in 2003 is now more relevant than ever.
The Social and Spiritual Redemption Charter is the NDP’s proposal for the use of moral teachings to address social ills.
It includes financial support from the state for organisations such as Scouts, Girl Guides, Pathfinders, and Cadets that seek to develop model citizens.
Speaking at an NDP press conference called Thursday to address the crime situation in SVG, Opposition Leader Godwin Friday noted that after losing the 1998 elections the Unity Labour Party vowed to make SVG ungovernable.
“How irresponsible a comment could that be? When a country is ungovernable, what does that mean? That’s like Somalia; there is lawlessness,” Friday said.
He further told the media that under the ULP administration, some persons who commit offences seem to get away with a slap on the wrist.
“And what we have now is the situation spiralling out of control and the fear that people feel cannot be minimised by some minister of government making a comment from his privileged position.”
His comments were an apparent reference to a statement Tuesday night by Minister of Local Government, Sen. Julian Francis that innocent persons are not being killed.
Friday said: “People feel that fear and if you don’t feel it, it means that you are disconnected from the people. You feel privileged and separate from the people; you are no longer in touch with the people. That is a crisis of legitimacy, that is when government must change because you are no longer responding to the needs of the people.”
He said of the NDP social charter “is it more relevant today than ever.
“The stuff that is outlined there are basic, fundamental things that you use to build strong communities, to build socially conscious persons as citizens of our country.”
He said that people often ask where others are getting the guns.
“The question is, ‘why are people seeking guns?’ People are trafficking in drugs. Why is it that this is becoming more common, more prevalent” Why is it that all of a sudden we hear that society is being organised in gangs to do these things when they weren’t there 20 or 30 years ago. The question isn’t just the mere fact of the availability, … the supply meeting the demand. Why is there the demand in the country.”
He further noted that the government has cited the country’s geography, specifically the fact that it is an archipelago as a challenge in preventing guns from entering the nation.
“Don’t make that an excuse. Try and find a way to deal with it. We are a country as we have found ourselves. We benefit from our tourism simply because of that geographic diversity. It is an asset; let’s not make it into a problem.
“That sort of thinking, to me, is so negative, and to use their phrase, so backward, that it really ought not to come from somebody who is in the place of government, unless they are simply throwing up their hands and saying well, this is a big problem, we can’t do anything about it.”
Friday said it was the same approach Francis took with the roads.
Speaking at the same press conference, NDP vice-president and Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock, mentioned the ceremony in August at which the Cadet Force received its regimental colours and the pride associated with it.
Leacock — a former commandant of the cadet force who maintains his rank as a major — suggested that this be contrasted with the amount of clogged drains and unkempt hedges across the country “and where people are saying, ‘St. Vincent and the Grenadines, you’re on your own. You don’t pay me for that. I am not going to do that; you are not paying me to do that’”.
He said this is something that must be given a lot of attention, adding that for Independence Day — Oct. 27 — people would wrap themselves in national colours then go back to their old ways after.
“Any administration that is in charge of St. Vincent and the Grenadines now has to go back to fundamentals, first principles, we must build a Vincentian society on the basic premises of values of life and society.
He said the Charter is “preventative, it is proactive, we are not reactive.
“And we need to take that very seriously,” Leacock said, adding that five to seven years ago, it cost EC$13,000 per annum to keep someone in prison, even as the nation was spending EC$5 annually on each Scout, Girl Guide, Pathfinder, and Cadet.
“Our parents have always said it: prevention is better than cure,” Leacock said.