The opposition New Democratic Party’s candidate for Marriaqua, Bernard Wyllie, says there are a number of “people-based, basic needs projects” in the constituency that are as they were when he was voted out of office in 1998.
“I would start off by saying things were better in St. Vincent with the NDP. I’m starting off with that line,” Wyllie, who emerged as the party’s candidate after a contentious selection process concluded last week, said on the party’s radio programme on NICE Radio on Tuesday.
Wyllie, who brought down the “Ironman”, the St. Vincent Labour Party’s Levi Latham in Marriaqua in 1989, was voted out of office in 1998 and has returned to electoral politics as what he calls “the people’s candidate”.
He will face off with Jimmy Prince of the ULP, who is seeking a second consecutive five-year term as MP for Marriaqua.
He said that Marriaqua, an agricultural district, known as the breadbasket of the nation, “at this stage, is now a shadow of its former self”.
“First of all, I would like to tell you what motivates me: when I go to the constituency and I see projects that had been started many years ago by the New Democratic Party and they are there still — people-based, basic needs projects that will help the poor people of the constituency — and I see that they are not touched, I feel happy to be on the New Democratic Party ticket to make a change in those areas,” Wyllie said.
“When I look and see what has happened to a fella Bramble up in Riley, who was a road driver (leader of a road cleaning team) and from since I lost the election, his books as a road driver and his gang were taken away. And up to this day, he has not been given one day’s work as a road driver in that area. Then, I am happy to be on the NDP ticket to correct those historic wrongs that have been done over the years.”
Wyllie said he is happy to be the NDP’s candidate when he sees that a road in Sayers started under the NDP administration — which was voted out of office in March 2001 – “ is still there, and for that matter they tried something recently, and the work has stopped, not going anywhere right now, so it’s incomplete.
“What I’m saying is when I see those things, I am happy to be on the New Democratic Party to try to correct those things,” Wyllie said.
He said the situation is the same in Glenside, certain areas of which he said that “faithfully’ supported the ruling Unity Labour Party.
He said that the footpath and water and electricity extension programme that he implemented in that village has remained just as they were when he was voted out of office.’
“… I got to take up my guns again and come in for the people not in war, but to provide the necessities of life so that they can enjoy the same life that everybody aspires to in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Wyllie told listeners.
He said he is inspired when he sees that the road he started from Cane End heading towards Freeland that was halfway done is still the same place for 20 years.
Another source of inspiration is the still-undeveloped London-Riley road that would have taken persons from Collins straight into Riley and “ease up some of the tension”.
“I know the New Democratic Party has served the country, this country, as no other political party has served it to date, and therefore, I’m saying to you, the people of St. Vincent and Grenadines and I’m saying specifically to you the people of Marriaqua, it is time to make the change.
“No party … must have an iron-fist rule on the people of this country. And further to that, we can’t breathe in Marriaqua. They have their foot on our neck; we need to breathe. The farmers in Marriaqua need to breathe again; agriculture has been decimated.”
Wyllie said he had visited Montreal where the government has built “a nice place for producing seedlings — the greenhouse”.
“And the greenhouse is really a white elephant … cost a lot of money. Right in Montreal all around it is pasture, nothing is growing, nothing productive.
“I am happy to lead the New Democratic Party’s challenge in Marriaqua to retake that seat and put the farmers of St. Vincent and the Grenadines back to work, provide opportunities and jobs so that they can provide for their families as they did in the past.’
Wyllie said he had almost cried when he walked down to the Mesopotamia Police Station on Monday and saw over 200 persons waiting to be paid for work they had done cleaning the roads.
“I applaud the people for taking jobs where they could get it. But I was saddened when I saw the amount of young ladies, young men, some of them who have been to school, well-educated secondary [school graduates] and their job was to go and clean the streets for seven or eight days in order to make ends meet.
“That pains me … it tells me that we need to do something far better in providing jobs for young people, to give them opportunities so that they can do better for themselves.
“Road work in my time when I was MP was something dedicated to the aged and our senior members of society. Now, the young people are scrambling because of the lack of jobs to get to do those things,” Wyllie said.
Wyllie said that most of the land in Marriaqua is “lying waste; fields are now abandoned; farming activities have been reduced significantly because the agricultural policy of the current government is a failure, so to speak…
“When we look at places like Montreal, from the top, coming right down to the valley, when we look at the condition of the road network, it is in a very deplorable state…
He said that in Majorca, the electricity grid is just where he left it 22 years ago, except for one additional pole put in place by a private owner.
“Nothing has been done in that area since. Nothing. And that’s why the people in Mt Pleasant, they are saying it is time for a change. It is time for us to go back to real representation, representation that was offered previously by the New Democratic Party.
“Ladies and gentlemen, not only do we have a poor state of roads, the infrastructure deterioration in Mt Pleasant, Majorca area, in many areas throughout the constituency, it is the same.
“The feeder roads going to the farmers’ lands in the Marriaqua Valley, they have either been overrun by grass, or they have disappeared by the forces of erosion. And so, we need to, after 20 years of neglect, after 20 years of poor representation, it is time for Marriaqua to join the fold of the New Democratic Party under the leadership of Dr. Godwin Friday, who will provide the kind of leadership that we need not only to the farming community in Marriaqua, but to take St Vincent and the Grenadines forward,” Wyllie said.
He said many of the poor and needy in the district have been denied enrolment in the Public Assistance programme because they are NDP supporters.
“During the time of the New Democratic Party reign in the valley, it was not so. People, irrespective of their party affiliation, based on their needs, they were supported; they were given assistance, based on their needs.
“We are saying we have the mantra ‘we are all one nation, we are one Vinci, we are one people. And whatever materials the government has to offer does not belong to the ULP. It is paid for by the taxpayers of this country, and all persons should be entitled to receive assistance as your needs permit,” Wyllie said.