Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.(iWN file photo)

By *Jomo Sanga Thomas

(“Plain Talk” Sept. 25, 2020)

If we mark Dec. 10, 2020 as the outside date within which elections will be called, there are less than 80 days before Vincentians decide which party will lead them for the next five. The elections of 2010 and 2015 both ended in an eight to seven result. Each of the two major parties will be vying to loosen the logjam.

Rhetoric notwithstanding, the opposition leaders and their supporters are cautiously optimistic. ULP leaders and supporters are cocksure of a fifth term. Evidently, the ULP bullishness stems from the fact that it has the power of incumbency and has consistently used it to its advantage. The expression of confidence by opposition leaders has not yet captured the imagination of some of its core supporters. They fear that even with hard work they may come up short again.

Gonsalves has repeatedly claimed that his ULP received a “bad hand” in 2001, even as his party romped home to a 12 to 3 electoral victory and 56% of the votes cast. He claimed to have steadied the ship of state, and that things are much better than they were 20 years ago.

Those in opposition, and especially independent-minded citizens, maintain that progress has been lopsided, and that we have had development only on the margins, not enough to have a transformative impact on most citizens.

Poverty at 30%, daily begging of young and old on the streets, high unemployment rate (estimated to be over 40% of young people, and the hundreds of higglers on the streets eking out a living, provide evidence of a developmental malaise.

The corresponding high levels of crimes against persons and property, particularly sexual assaults and rape, theft of livestock, fruits, vegetables and ground provisions of farmers; the rapidly increasing helplessness and hopefulness which have arrested pockets of our citizenry, are frightening proof that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

A significant section of the population asserts if ever there was a time for a change, the time is now. But will most of the voters’ demand change and ensure that it comes? While dissatisfaction is seething and anger is growing, this reality may be reflecting signs of resignation and alienation from the status quo rather than activism intended to change the order of things.

Gonsalves initially expressed an interest in two terms, promised to make the election of 2010 his last as leader, but is going for a fifth term. He may want to go, but the political dynamic does not allow him. He has done everything since 2000 to groom his son to relieve him but the polls may not be cheering him on — at least not yet.

He remains a lightning rod for good and bad. He could be caring and callous, inspiring and spiteful, uplifting and wont to dive into the gutters if he calculates that politics of the lowest order will take him to the highest heights. In many respects, including popular appeal, he may be the best and the worst the ULP has to offer. The rhetoric about transition, which was such a prominent feature in the 2015 election campaign, has all but disappeared from the leader.

But elections 2020 must be his last dance. If neither he nor his party wants to test someone else as the leader in an electoral contest, biology will demand that Gonsalves exit the political stage, thus exposing the ULP’s soft underbelly.

Be that as it may, Gonsalves, who stormed home to victory in 2001 with a 12 to 3 majority, watched as his party’s popular vote and parliamentary seats shrunk. The popular vote for the party ticked upward in 2015 and Gonsalves will like to leave a parting gift to the up and coming team. Forced to invoke the concessionary mantra “a win is a win” after the 2010 and 2015 eight to seven electoral victories, Gonsalves will want to leave with an increased majority in Parliament.

And the party is pulling out all the stops. A bathhouse at Questelles Bay, promised more than a decade ago, will be in place for the elections. The Community Centre at Retreat, which had fallen into disrepair, is getting a new roof and replacement window. Hopefully the clean running water and electricity will return. Vermont and Penniston Community Centres are showcases for the neglect of an area that strongly support the ULP. We shall soon see if people will forget or forgive.

In North Leeward, roads that went into disuse decades ago have gotten attention. Bridges in Chateaubelair, which collapsed years ago, are hastily being readied for completion as the election fever rises. Apparently, those in authority could not have cared less about the years of inconvenience faced by citizens.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the sole purpose of winning elections is not to govern and bring benefits to the more desperate and marginalised sections of the population, but rather to prepare for the next election victory. In the meantime, the political and economic elite get fatter as they gorge themselves off the opportunity presented by the control of state power.

There are issues galore on which a properly organised opposition party can feast. If the NDP is serious about entering victory row after its two-decade long spell in opposition, it must first abandon its rhetoric about the elections being stolen. If it thinks it has no chance because the process is rigged against it — few persons in SVG believe this is the case — it must call a press conference, outline its case and boycott the elections. This idea is not novel. It has happened in our Caribbean before. However, charges of fraud before an election tell supporters not to bother because their efforts, no matter how determined, will be in vain.

If Dr. Friday and the NDP leadership think their chances are good and there is a real likelihood of success, they must arm and ready their supporters with that optimism and hone a clear message for the coming battle.

These upcoming elections are not over by a long shot. The race will tighten as the date for voting gets closer. We cannot yet say which party forms the next government.

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

10 replies on “The state of play”

  1. One has to be utterly and totally brain dead to regard the following as evidence of progress JOMO dear fellow, “Poverty at 30 percent, daily begging of young and old on the streets, high unemployment rate estimated to be over 40 percent of young people, and the hundreds of hagglers on the streets eking out a living….,” added to which as you have sadly here noted;

    “The corresponding high levels of crimes against persons and property, particularly sexual assaults and rape, theft of livestock, fruits, vegetables and ground provisions of farmers; the rapidly increasing helplessness and hopefulness which have arrested pockets of our citizenry , are frightening proof that the more things change, the more they remain the same.”

    Truth be told JOMO, we need more years of such, as we need a hole in the head! And as you say; “A significant section of the population asserts if ever there was a time for a change, the time is now.” To which you must agree!

    But as you well know, dynasties have a habit of never wanting to leave power and often has to be driven out of power, as we thus saw with another self-styled PAPA in Haiti. There we saw another ruined country, ruined by a family dictatorship https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNcipLHJ0po surely as the 4th poorest nation in the Caribbean during this old man’s rule, change for the better is a must for us, that is, if we as a nation have even a modicum of pride or shame within us!

    And come now Jomo, after this old fox’s near on twenty years in office, it is quite obvious to any serious thinker, that our road to any future prosperity has to be elsewhere, and not in the hands of the grubby dynasty of the Ralph Gonsalves clan, a clan who will only bring us more unimaginable grief for this our very small nation.

    Are we that dunce that we cannot not even learn from recent Caribbean history? Surely these years here of cronyism has to give way to and for an inclusive society in SVG, a society here where all jobs are based on merit, and not on crony capitalism and victimisation or based on party affiliation.

    1. Jomo also asserts that most people think the ULP did not steal the election…How does he know that? I have even heard ULP people that believe it was stolen. The worst part about it is that in many places on Earth, when elections are close and ARE stolen there is virtually NOTHING the people can do about it! We have all seen in SVG that NO ONE IS allowed to inspect the ballot boxes!!!!
      I wonder what the ULP is afraid of? Even after, as we have seen: THE COURT RULED IT IS PERFECTLY FINE FOR SOMEONE TO EVEN TAKE THE BALLOT BOXES HOME WITH THEM!!!!!
      IN ANY OTHER COUNTRY ON EARTH THAT WOULD NOT BE ALLOWED…ONLY IN SVG!

  2. Jomo, being part of the brotherhood for years and also help shaped the monstrous
    U L P Party you are afraid to say after 20yrs in Government Ralph had fail us.

    I can say to you if He did keep up with the 1979 Manifesto and great ideas by forth by progressive then SVG will in better position.

    I am wondering how my friend Renrick Rose is feeling for years he toiled and Ralpie and bunch of money politician skew up.

    Reading your Opinion i find you dancing with words and afraid to state carely that ULP fail and Country is stagnated, you are making deterrences in low key way.

    You knows the 7 pillars if a Country is Economicaly stong and growing and SVG fail in all.
    We are a begging state and it seems some type of destruction or viruses always invaded us Around Election time and International donor always at hand to help Ralph.

    After 20yrs Jomo be honest. Tell me which part of economy is growing.

    Building monuments if noting to put in them that bring financial gain to Nation is money bad spent.

    My two cent.

  3. Urlan Alexander says:

    Jomo I am in total agreement with your assessment of the local political landscape. This piece is the first that really shows that the ULP will lose the elections. Too many things are going wrong for the incumbent. The PM, as you correctly described is the ULP best asset and equally so their biggest liability. The chickens are coming home to roost and the ULP is seeing it’s last days in government. 20 years in office is historic but we have to move on. Time for a change.

  4. NDP should start preaching “UNIT”. That’s what is lacking in SVG. Some ULP supporters told me it’s there time now, because the NDP played politics and only look after its supporters. Manu feel they have no choice but to keep supporting the ULP because the NDP may leave them in the POTTYHOLE. The NDP has to promise ULP supporters it has no intention of disbanding Vincentians no matter who they previously supported.
    The next leader has to unite the people, so they can all move forward together.

  5. Nathan 'Jolly' Green says:

    Hi! James, The poverty in SVG is much higher than the ULP government want us to believe, almost 50% in fact.

    2008: 30.2 percent of the population was living in poverty.

    2015: Poverty, inequality and unemployment , 25.1 per cent.
    https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/latin-america-and-caribbean/document/saint-vincent-grenadines-country-profile-july-2020#:

    2020: The latest Country Poverty Assessment , 48.2 per cent of the population is considered to be vulnerable. Jul 22, 2020
    Saint Vincent & The Grenadines Country Profile as of July 2020 http://www.humanitarianresponse.info › operations › document

  6. As I see it the ULP leadership is like a driving school where the guy in charge never lets the students take control of the vehicles; he makes all decisions and controls everything. HE DOES NOT TRUST ANY OF THEM! Even his own son remains incompetent at decision making because daddy always has the controls.

  7. Calliaquaman I do agree with you that jomo ia afraid to say certain things, he’s a big coward. I’m still waiting to hear him comment on,,,, you have me in your craw and you are nothing… You sit silently when these were thrown in your face, still waitimg

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