Opposition politician St. Clair Leacock has commended the Public Service Union (PSU) for its last week call for its members to vote out the Unity Labour Party (ULP) in Thursday’s general election, a reversal of a position the union took two decades ago.
Leacock, a vice president of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) and incumbent MP for Central Kingstown, said that his party has been consistently making the case that the Nov. 5 vote “is an election like no other”.
He said the poll is an occasion on which St. Vincent and the Grenadines has its stocktaking and has recognised that the government “took a wrong exit or a U-turn and has taken this blessed land of ours off course”.
He examined a few “home truths”, saying that it has to be an embarrassment of all time that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, “a political leader who made his name in this region’s leading educational institution, the University of the West Indies, who at one time or the other, his writings would have been considered to be of value to our young students, today finds himself on the receiving end of the very stakeholders and instruments that brought him to office”.
Leacock said that because some persons are so young and first time voters, it is important to inform them that “this rogue regime made its name and celebrated its name on being a government formed through a roadblock revolution”.
He said the “roadblock revolution” was “a nice word to accept and acknowledge” that the ULP “disrupted the constitutional provisions of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, ignored or rejected, out of hand, the outcome and an election result, and, in their language, made the bold declaration that St. Vincent would remain ungovernable. So said, so proclaimed, so achieved.
“Even they themselves couldn’t manage the state over the last 19 years.”
Leacock spoke of physical courage, saying this is often displayed in the armed forces.
“But there is also something that’s called moral courage,” he said, adding that it is “the ability of an individual to see that something is manifestly wrong and against all the odds and potential retaliation, stand up as a man or woman and defy the powers that be and call a spade a spade.”
Leacock, who is seeking a third five-year term as MP for Central Kingstown, said that the pronouncement by the PSU last week was something remarkable that should not go unnoticed.
Leacock said that just over 20 years ago, he was then the president of the Employers Federation, one of the advisory bodies for business in SVG and in that regard, went to Grenada for the talks to resolve the political unrest in SVG, which was dubbed the “Roadblock Revolution”.
He said that Israel Bruce was then president of the National Youth Council, “a respectable body and voice for young people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.
Also in Grenada were the leadership of all the trade unions in SVG, namely the PSU, the SVG Teachers’ Union, the Commercial Technical and Allied Workers Union, and the National Workers Movement.
“And they all lined up, without exception, to bring down the New Democratic Party from [duly elected] office. Not the Youth Council, they stood objectively and resisted that attempt.
“Twenty years or so after, the very unions, the very unions that brought the Unity labour Party into government, said no more, no more, and, encouraged by a bold moral statement, encouraged their membership to rally behind Dr. Friday and the New Democratic Party to bring an end to the tyranny.”
He said that the union had come to that position “out of bitter experience, experience which led a Teachers’ Union to have to take the government to court to get justice in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a Public Service Union to take the government to court to get justice for its members who couldn’t get fair and square promotion because St. Vincent had deteriorated and descended into a state of virtual … one man existence.
“The high court made a decision that the government was found wanting, well, it hasn’t been so proclaimed, but, in fact, that is what it is. Today, the government has not complied with the high court, keeping or being consistent with their own determination, ‘you have to come back to Papa’.
“So we have a country in which even the High Court can be disobeyed, flouted. Other ordinary citizens would have been charged with contempt of court, would be dragged before the court and would be jailed for their defiance. Not so in St. Vincent. But the union, I said, had the moral courage to take a stand. I salute them here tonight on behalf of this New Democratic Party.”
Leacock also said that 20 years after the roadblock revolution, there is also no National Youth Council.
“It has disappeared. What does that signal to us, St. Vincent and the Grenadines? Young, first-time voters, elders, parents — that in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we have country, ‘When I talk, no damn dog bark.’ It’s Gonsalves or nothing.
“Or, let me correct myself, it’s Gonsalves or Camillo. You want a further correction? Gonsalves, Camillo or Julian… That is the essence … what we are changing this time.”
Leacock said that if the country “were to make the sad mistake and return that government to office and confirm that we are, in fact, on people’s plantation and estate, we will reap a bitter harvest.
“We are not just a resilient people in St. Vincent. We are not just a hardworking people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but we are a self-respecting people who can rise to the occasion and we are being presented with the opportunity on Nov. 5 to bring an end to that tyranny and to Gonsalvesism in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.