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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)
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” May 3, 2024)

Our governance structure is rotten. The political class is bankrupt. We lack political hygiene. Mediocrity runs amok. We have to make a sharp turn away from this sad state of affairs if SVG is to chart a course that uplifts the majority of our people.

The shifting policy of the opposition New Democratic Party on China reflects political immaturity and a lack of understanding of the modern world. The spending policy of the governing Unity Labour Party in preparations for a few matches in the upcoming ICC T20 Cricket World Cup is proof positive that this government is recklessly irresponsible with the nation’s finances. 

Two weeks ago, the New Democratic Party, through its vice president, St. Clair Leacock, offered the clearest indication yet that his party is about to renege on its 2016 decision to break relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan and establish relations with the People’s Republic of China. Leacock claimed that the decision to switch from Taipei to Beijing had hurt the NDP. 

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A few months after the 2015 elections, former opposition leader Arnhim Eustace announced that his party would follow the vast majority of independent nations and adopt the one-China policy. Only 11 independent countries and the Vatican maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Five of the 11 countries are from the Caribbean: Belize, Haiti, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and SVG. 

Eustace’s announcement was a correct and principled policy change, although tactically questionable, coming as it did months after the 2015 elections. In 2022, following the earthquake in Taiwan, Leacock offered hints that his party was rethinking its position. The NDP statement, coming as it did from Leacock rather than from party leader Dr. Godwin Friday, who shadows foreign policy in the national assembly, reflects the mental muddle plaguing the opposition. 

Is the opposition leader afraid to announce the abandonment of the one-China policy and send his rumbunctious vice president with the message, or is Leacock yet again attempting to upstage his leader? 

One thing is certain. Any recommitment to Taiwan is not in the best interest of our country. Such a shift will show the opposition as weak and indecisive. If they cannot make decisions and stick to them, what will happen if and when they walk the corridors of power and are confronted by hostile, domineering leaders and institutions? Will the party cave in and buckle under the pressures of governance responsibility that are sure to come?

The party seems to be in a quandary as to why it lost five elections in a row. Although the answers steer it in the face, it refused to draw the proper lessons. By 2010, the opposition had recovered all of the lost ground following its decisive defeat in 2001. Two percentage points separated it from the ULP in terms of popular support. It held seven of the 15 seats in the national assembly. Across the Caribbean, it became the poster child as the party that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. 

Rather than look at its weaknesses in candidate selection, poor grassroots organisation, failure to know the lay of the land and a woeful inability to attract financing for its election war chest, the party comes up with the dumbing view that an announcement that no one remembers or talks about is hurting its election chances.  

Rather than retreating from the wise and forward-looking One China/Beijing diplomatic position, Dr. Friday and a couple of top party officials should announce an aggressive diplomatic offensive with visits to Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba and Venezuela, Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad. The sole purpose of the diplomatic overdrive should be to convince leaders that whenever the elections are called, the NDP will form the next government. It is on the basis of confident advocacy that foreign leaders take you seriously and fund your efforts. 

Going back to Taiwan shows weakness and lack of resolve and would amount to a monumental foreign policy blunder. 

ULP fiscal irresponsibility

On April 15, Plain Talk boldly announced that the $35 million earmarked by the ULP government to prepare the Arnos Vale Playing Field for the ICC T20 Cricket World Cup in June will be overrun by about $10 million.

Last week, Michael Findley, our cricket sporting hero and one of the persons integral to our country’s preparations to host some T20 games, announced that SVG will spend about $50 million. This is $15 million more than was initially budgeted. The great Mikey was sent out with the news as a trial balloon. The government wanted to see how our people would respond to the spending. 

Those who know Michael Findley know that he is a meticulous man. He is as mentally prepared as he is always neatly dressed. He is not one to make wild, uninformed statements. Therefore, we can be sure that when the Great One, as I refer to him, says that our bill is $50 million, he knows what he is speaking about.

By last Sunday, however, there was a growing buzz that we were wasting taxpayers’ money, extravagantly spending on the Cricket World Cup that would bring our country little or no reward. PM Gonsalves disclosed that rather than $50 million, the country will “spend $38 million. May be ah little more”.

In 2006/7, SVG spent $56 million to host some warm-up games for the World Cup. Therefore, in less than 20 years, SVG has spent close to $100 million, for which we see little or no returns. 

West Indies cricket is at the bottom of world cricket rankings. It is true that we won two ICC T 20 championships in 2012 and 2016, but there are no bright spots of late. Last year, we failed to qualify for the 50-over version of the World Cup. Had we not been playing host, its questionable whether West Indies would qualify. 

Sporting powerhouse Jamaica refused to spend the money required to sponsor games. St. Kitts and Dominica took similarly wise positions. Why do our governments act like fools where angels fear to tread?

Whether it’s $38 plus or $50 million, we are wasting the people’s money. The government undoubtedly borrowed this money, thus creating yet another hook in the national gill. The time has come for our people to punish reckless fiscal irresponsibility. 

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

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

One reply on “NDP’s folly, ULP irresponsibility”

  1. Anita John says:

    Jomo you are correct by saying that the NDP will loose support should they switch support from Taiwan in favor of China. They certainly smell the rat, Taiwan feels more like a family, many of our own students are there. We have a bonded relationship over the years based not so.much on mutality. I comment a rethink of the policy with respect to Taiwan. This Shows the central committee of the NDP is evolving in the right direction.

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