By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” Oct. 23, 2020)
Last Tuesday’s incident at Rillan Hill, where shots rang out and stones were pelted at opposition supporters, represents a dangerous escalation in the war for political turf and the minds of the voters. Both parties should swiftly condemn the reckless display of force and attempts at intimidation.
Our analysis of the five toss-up constituencies created quite a row. Those who think the elections are already in the bag scoffed at our conclusions. They said we were biased and offered too harsh a commentary. We have no horse in the race and present only objective and truthful observations.
So here goes:
Debra Charles makes a second attempt to unseat Daniel Cummings, the two-time incumbent. Cummings won the seat by 444 votes in 2015. He can be arrogantly explosive at times, but among opposition supporters, is seen as one who stands forcefully for his party. Charles served as government senator in the last parliament for five years but failed to distinguish herself. Additionally, the ULP did little or nothing in the constituency to aid her chances. There is really no contest. Cummings wins easily.
In Dominic Sutherland, a respected accounting professional, the ULP offers a solid candidate. He will be no electoral match for St Clair Leacock, the only opposition candidate to increase his margin of victory in the last elections by 516 votes.
Major Leacock, currently in his late 60’s, may be disinclined to continue beyond the end of this term unless his party wins. Since losing the Kingstown seats in 2010, ULP seems unwilling and/or unable to pose any real electoral threat to the opposition dominance of Kingstown, except for Luke Browne’s indomitable will to win and rescue his political career. Sutherland’s best bet is to take this election cycle as experience and bide his time for the 2025 battle.
West St George
When my friend and fellow reparationist Curtis King was mentioned as a possible replacement for the retiring Ces Mc Kie, some ULP activists opposed his candidacy on the ground that he was “another Jomo”, with strong views and unshakable commitment to the people and country. They thought he may not uncritically toe the party line. When he won the nod, he told me, “Jomo dem men nah whar yo.” I often wondered whether Curtis believes that Gonsalves wants him or is just prepared to use his deep roots and strong connection to West St. George to wade off any challenge to its dominance of the constituency.
Ces McKie won by 578 votes in 2015. Curtis King is being challenged by the experienced and accomplished firebrand attorney Kay Bacchus-Baptiste. While some question her ethics, Bacchus-Baptiste has will power and money to pour into her campaign. However, it will take a 3 to 5% swing away for the opposition to snag this seat.
East St George
Camillo Gonsalves won in 2015 with 3,135 votes. Therefore, 617 votes represent a steep mountain for Lavern Gibson-Velox to climb. Some voters claim it’s virtually impossible to get a return call or a sit down with the representative. However, Gonsalves’ representation on the national stage will be enough to easily take him to a second term. The party has also ensured that projects come to ESG.
Sex scandals rarely hamper Caribbean politicians. However, the “Yugge Farrell affair”, in which Camillo was advised to take a “dignified silence”, coupled with the jitteriness of citizens over a possible transition in leadership from father to son, may have caused a setback to Camillo’s emergence as party leader.
PM Gonsalves did everything to position Camillo as the next leader. Gonsalves the son, with no links to the constituency, was helicoptered into East St George, one of the safest Labour seats, having served as ambassador to the UN, he was later appointed Minister of Foreign affairs, and then Finance Minister. To his credit, with each appointment, Camillo performed with distinction. He remains the brightest star in the ULP firmament. We can be sure had polls shown he could have beat Dr. Friday, he, rather than “Comrade” would have led the party in the elections.
PM Gonsalves, who has maintained a punishing schedule since 2001, is aged and grossly overweight, has confided that he is tired and willing to go but his party can’t afford his departure. Camillo cruises for a comfortable victory.
This constituency is solidly Labour. The NDP seems resigned to the fact that only time could dislodge the ULP from the minds and votes of constituents. With a 2015 margin of victory of 759 votes, Gustaus Stephenson, a friendly, steady hand, wins easily.
Bernard Wyllie, who represented the constituency in the last century, declared that he has “put on his guns again”. The opposition is counting on this “blast from the past” to pull off an upset. It is doubtful that Wyllie has any explosive powder left. If he is so armed, Jimmy Prince, who won by 756 votes in 2015, and his Labour squad are destined to douse and smother any fires Wyllie dreams of lighting. Jimmy remains as “Prince of the Valley”.
South Central Windward
Israel Bruce, a former teacher, now a crusading attorney, confronts Saboto Caesar. Caesar claims that he has presided over the most diversified agricultural sector in the OECS, thus leading the country away from its over-dependence on an unprofitable banana industry plagued by disease.
Bruce, a spirited campaigner, bids to prevent a 3rd term by Caesar who won by 588 votes in 2015. It’s a tall order. However, because of the bad roads, and the poor condition of the health clinics and community centre in SCW, expect Bruce to narrow the margin of defeat.
ULP goes for 5 in ah row; Edwin Snagg trots to his 6th defeat. As boss of the Grenadines Directorate, Snaggy has little interest in elective office. He gets the perks without the responsibility of a representative. Terrance Ollivierre, a shoo-in since 2001, won by 412 in 2015, will ride triumphantly.
Caveat. If there is an early indication of any serious swing away from the ULP in any of the seats on the eastern corridor of the island, the NDP will taste victory. Conversely, if ULP steamrolls to early victories in East Kingstown, North and South Leeward, the NDP will know its crying time.
*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].