Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday has dismissed as a “propaganda institute” the “Institute of Governance and Politics of Latin America and the Caribbean” launched by the ruling Unity Labour Party on Thursday.
He said the institute would not distract from the realities of life in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), including the crisis at the National Insurance Services (NIS) and high rate of unemployment, especially among young people.
“… when you hear them talking in their desperation that … they’re going to create a propaganda institute — I forget what to call it, to educate whom? To try and tell people that seven is more than 10?” the opposition leader said on his party’s radio programme.
“To try and tell people that what they’re feeling and seeing that that is not real, that you have to interpret it to convoluted and highfalutin language that only some people at the institute of propaganda understand?” he further stated on Monday on New Times on NICE Radio.
“Come on! We are better than that. And St. Vincent and the Grenadines, fool me once, your fault; fool me twice, ain’t go happen,” the opposition leader said.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said the institute will focus on “matters touching and concerning governance, politics and the political economy of our Caribbean and Latin American civilisations, and their historic and contemporary manifestations, inclusive of their dialectical interconnections between and within both our hemispheric civilisation and others globally”.
But Friday called for honest conversations about the realities in the country, adding “not to have things that are set up there to bamboozle and to dazzle shiny objects to distract us from what is real and what is really important to the day-to-day lives of our people. We see too much of that happening here now.”
‘drum beats of change getting louder and louder’
Friday said that the ULP is “so desperate now they can hear the drum beats of change getting louder and louder.
“And Ralph is afraid of that,” he said of ULP leader, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.
“He is afraid of that change. So, he comes up with all kinds of things to seek to detract and deflect away from what is important.”
Friday used crime as an example, saying that for the ULP administration, “crime is everybody else’s fault — is the judges’ fault, is the lawyers’ fault, is pretty woman’s fault, it’s the magistrates’ fault; never the government.
“You have crime in the country, they never take responsibility for it and to do something about it. Well, if you don’t take responsibility, then you don’t feel that it is up to you to make it better. And so, the problem will continue to get worse and worse. And they will also continue with the distraction.”
He spoke of the July 20 removal at Brighton Salt Pond of items that businessman Errol “Huffle” Arthur had erected at the site, where he rents a vending station from the state-owned National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority.
“… nobody seems to know in government what happened there. How is it you could have a decision of that high profile to clear away property that people have put there, of value that has been appreciated by the community, and they say well Cabinet didn’t know,” Friday said.
“Well, who cares whether the Cabinet knew or not. The point is whether the people who are in power knew. Don’t bring this artificial distinction that if Cabinet didn’t know, then the important members of government somehow didn’t know.”
Friday said the indications are clearly that the government was aware of what was happening.
“So, to make smaller, lower-level individuals a scapegoat for this is not going to wash,” he said, adding that this shows that the government does not take responsibility.
“It doesn’t take responsibility for the problems in the country because it sees itself as above it all. And it’s not a cause of the problems, it is not a part of the problem.”
The opposition leader said that when the government can blame and deflect others, they simply will continue to try to bamboozle people, adding that this is what they are doing now.
Friday, however, said the government is afraid of the change that is coming.
“And people are saying louder and louder that they want a new government in this country. They want a new opening, a new future. And all the distraction that they are trying to bring about is not going to allow people or make people forget how insecure they feel in their communities,” the opposition leader said.
‘not going to make them forget that the NIS problem’
“It’s not going to make them forget that the NIS problem is still to be addressed and the government has not put forward a plan.
“It is not going to let them forget that the situation that we have right now with respect to cost of living rising and people can’t find the means to put shoes on their children’s feet to go to school. … They can’t forget it because it is right there in front of you.”
Friday said the rhetoric and the propaganda that might have bought the government some time is now worn out, stale and no longer connects with people.
“… because they themselves, as a ruling party, as a ruling class or ruling clique, have lost touch with the people so can no longer communicate on that level.”
The opposition leader said that the government recently began making announcements about young people “as if all of a sudden after 22 years in office, they discover young people.
“You have all these problems that are facing young people for so many years — 46% unemployment, they have made no effort to address the unemployment crisis in the country.
“If you really want to do something for young people, give them an education, yes, but also give them the means to support themselves, bring them into the economy of the country.
“Let them do things that develop themselves, their communities, and ultimately, our country, we need their youthful exuberance, we need their new training and approaches to things, we need their education, their intellect, their energy, we need that,” Friday said.
“The people of this country, crying out for change, and we in the New Democratic Party, we are presenting that.”
He said that the NDP — which has been in opposition since March 2001, after 17 years in office — will be a government for all the people, as it had been in the past.
“… because we recognise as a matter of principle, we cannot go forward only with one side rowing in one direction and the other side rowing in the other or paddling in the other in a canoe,” Friday said.
“We want to go ahead, so we all have to agree on the way forward and then paddle like hell to get there,” said Friday, who has been MP for the Northern Grenadines since March 2001.
“I will be there leading in helping to shape the direction in which we go and uttering the cry to move on. Let’s go on together as a people, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. My colleagues in the New Democratic Party every day they put their backs to the wheel. They are there in the communities touching base with people finding out what the circumstances under which they are living.”
Friday said it will take “all of us” to dig the country out of the hole in which the ULP has put it.
“And this is why I continue to say and to reach out to everyone in the country, because we know that the people want change,” the opposition leader said, adding that many people are afraid because they think they will be penalised if they commit themselves to change and it does not come.
“The change will come. Once you take that decision to make the change, it is unstoppable,” Friday said, adding that he told the youth people at his party’s Hope Rally that they have very significant role to play in shaping the future of the country.
The opposition leader said the NDP is the only vehicle for political change in the country.
“We need to have leadership to bring about that change, to lead that crusade that coming together, that mighty amalgamation of our people, all their dissatisfaction, all their fears and concerns.
“But more than that their hope their dreams for the future of St. Vincent and the Grenadines bring them together. Let us at this time, for this moment, bring them together to pull St Vincent and the Grenadines back from the abyss to put it in a path towards growth and progress and development and hope and prosperity and jobs and security for our people.
“That is what we are offering in the New Democratic Party. And we know that the message is getting through loud and clear to all people because they are fed up of being governed by a set of people who no longer see themselves as serving the people of the country. But as being masters of the country.”
Friday said that the transformation has taken some time, adding SVG, however, should never become comfortable with the current situation.
“It is one that we should never say that the people who govern have it as an entitlement, and that they need not consult with me, the ordinary folk, because they know better. They don’t, nobody knows better than the ordinary people what’s in their best interest.”
Friday said this is why the NDP advocates a people-centred approach to politics, governance and economic development.
“That is to say, it must take the concerns and the aspirations and the interests of the ordinary people first. And to do that, you have to consult with them, you have to go out and meet with them, you have to do walkabouts.
“You have to go into the communities, and have small village meetings with the people almost like a conversation with our fellow citizens, because that is what we all are.”