The ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) has created “a handout-dependent society” in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, New Democratic Party (NDP) senator, Shevern John has told Vincentians in Canada.
“This is what has become the norm in our once blessed land but Vincentians are not prepared to accept this any longer,” she told her party’s “Hope For Home” town hall meeting in Toronto Sunday night.
“Poverty and unemployment are the hallmarks of this administration. We cannot accept as normal this high rate of poverty in our country,” John said.
“We refuse to accept as normal this high unemployment and underemployment rate,” she said and asked the audience if they were aware that secondary school graduates get work only twice a year — on the two-week road cleaning programme.
“Yes! They only ever do ‘road wuk’. This, my fellow Vincentians, is ridiculous and unacceptable,” John said.
John spoke about the high crime rate in SVG, on a day that the country recorded its 42nd homicide, bringing the country this year to last year’s record setting number.
“We cannot accept as normal this high crime and rape rate,” John said. “We refuse to accept as normal the neglect to our agriculture and fisheries sector,” she said, adding that because of these negative things and more, the NDP is calling for change.
“The cry for change is loud across SVG. The cry for change is resonating across the North Windward constituency. People are fed up with what has been meted out to them in the name of governance.
“SVG can be better. Our people deserve far more than the pittance that’s being handed out to them by this corrupt and ineffective government (ULP administration.)
“And tonight we are appealing to those of you who are still not sure what to do, to join us in this very noble effort to save SVG from further decline and disaster.”
John will represent the NDP in North Windward in the next general elections — constitutionally due by February 2026 — when she will make her second bid to become its MP.
In her first outing at the polls, John came within 69 votes of defeating Montgomery Prime Daniel, who secured a fifth consecutive five-year term in office.
The former teacher said her involvement in community development in North Windward predates her NDP candidacy.
“I taught for over 20 years. I have served in multiple organisations in my community and nationally. I love sports. I play netball, volleyball, etc. I say all those so you can understand why since my entry into politics in 2020, I’ve never stopped organising and facilitating sporting activities and community development projects,” she said.
She said that every quarter of the year she hosts a sports competition, be it football, cricket or netball, in addition to road walks and other community activities.
“Every week, we are in the constituency doing house to house [visit]. We started in 2020 and have not stopped,” John said.
“These activities are not because I want to be elected to office. No, they will continue to be calendar fixtures for many years to come.
It always amazes me how passionate my people are about sports. My pledge to them is to make North Windward known for sports, community development and the like. It is time we are known for these things,” she said.
“I have expressed it before and I will say it again, I do not regret the decision to be part of this NDP team led by Dr. [Godwin] Friday. Over and over, Dr. Friday continues to demonstrate that he genuinely cares about SVG. In private and publicly, he shows his vision for a better SVG,” the senator said.
She told the meeting that the NDP is ready to answer the call.
“We have given serious thought to the problems facing SVG and have spent a considerable amount of time planning to tackle these issues. We have and will continue to present a path to true prosperity, development and empowerment in our beloved SVG. We have a capable team to effectively manage this change process.”
John said the NDP’s team brings together a wide range of managerial experience and expertise including in economics and financial management; civil engineering; law enforcement; education; information and communication technology; business management and marketing; agriculture; and, legal matters.
“This is a team of individuals who are genuinely concerned about the holistic development and empowerment of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines. A team of perfectly blended skills and competencies to manage SVG at a time when there is much uncertainty about our country’s future.
“North Windward, I say to you tonight that under my representation, we will not be known for the highest concentration of poverty. No, we will say ‘buh bye’ to high unemployment, poor sporting facilities, tribalism and all those derogatory definitions of us”
She told Vincentians in the diaspora that they play a critical role in securing an NDP victory at the polls.
“Know this: the barrels, monies and so that you remit to your loved ones is what is holding up SVG,” she said.
“Your response to our needs at home when we text and call or when disaster strikes, keeps us. Thank you so very much for caring in tangible and intangible ways. They don’t go unnoticed.”
She said that at the same time, the NDP recognises that if things are better at home, “some of you would rather be there than here in North America.
“If things are better at home, you will be able to save a little more. If things are better at home, you will worry less about the lack your loved ones are facing now.
“It is why I am encouraging you to encourage your loved ones to vote for change — to vote for the NDP next elections. Find out if they have already registered. If they’re not, offer them the cash to take out their birth certificate and get registered.”
She urged Vincentians in the diaspora to reach out to their NDP candidate about how they can tangibly support the programmes the party executes in constituencies.
“You will notice that the ULP is already adapting an election posture. We see the opening of facilities that have long been finished. But it’s the MO of the ULP to delay all things until elections are close.
“They think their saving grace is Sandals or Holiday Inn just like how they used the airport before. It won’t work this time.”
John said Vincentians see that the ULP only shows care at election time.
“We must not forget that before Sandals for Dave Ames and all the scandals that went with it….
“All the major projects with millions in spent are not reflected in our people’s pockets. There is still no real growth! The same can’t bring us change.”
She said the NDP’s approach to governance would be different, adding that the party is committed to delivering for all.
“We are committed to being judged by actions, not words. We would put an end to the policy of divisiveness and tribalism that is seemingly advocated and promoted by the current regime and its leadership. Instead we would rally together around our visionary leader in promoting unity among our people… As far as the NDP is concerned, we are: one nation, one people, one SVG,” the senator further said, echoing her party leader’s slogan in the 2020 general elections.