Advertisement 87
Advertisement 211
The NDP's billboard at Gibson Corner.
The NDP’s billboard at Gibson Corner.
Advertisement 219

Opposition Leader Godwin Friday says the billboard that his New Democratic Party (NDP) erected last week saying there were “52 homicides” in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2023 is not geared at tourists.

“This is not attacking tourism… I am concerned about what’s happening to the people in this country. We live it every day,” he told HOT97 FM in response to the billboard, which began generating discussion after a photo of it was posted online by people calling for its removal.

“And tourists are not as naive and ill-informed as you think — as some people seem to think — that they will come here and see a billboard and suddenly decide that St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been ranked as one of the places with the highest homicide rate in the world.”

While the billboard said that the country recorded 52 homicides last year, the true figure is 55, of which the police have classified 52 as murders.

Charges have been laid in just a handful of those killings even as the country has recorded some 15 homicides so far this year, including two people shot and killed by police. 

Advertisement 271

The full text of the billboard reads:

“THERE WERE 52 HOMICIDES IN SVG IN 2023”, “CRIME IS OUT OF CONTROL”, “THE NDP HAS A PLAN TO MAKE SVG SAFE AGAIN”. The billboard directs the public to the NDP’s social media pages and website.

Friday, who has been the opposition spokesperson on tourism since he was elected MP for the Northern Grenadines in 2001, noted that some people have said that the billboard was placed so that guests travelling to Sandals Resort in Buccament Bay would see it.

“The calculation has nothing to do with Sandals, has nothing to do with tourism. It’s about a place where our people can see it,” he said of the billboard, in Gibson Corner, a West Kingstown community. 

“There are three billboards that we intend to put up. One is on the road out to Villa — we haven’t got that yet. One at the NDP headquarters,” the NDP leader further said.

The billboard at the NDP’s Murray’s Road headquarters in East Kingstown outlines the NDP’s plans for the “four pillars” of the Vincentian economy, which the party has been elaborating over the past few months.

Godwin Friday
Opposition Leader Godwin Friday in a Jan. 9, 2024 photo.

The opposition leader said that each of the three billboards would carry a different message. 

“If people are concerned about this billboard now, they will see that when we address the issues that are confronting the country on other billboards as we get closer to elections, this is not a matter of trying to say, ‘Well, things in the country can’t improve.’ 

“They can improve. This is why we put them out there. This is saying … this is something that is bad government, they’re not addressing the problem. And if you don’t want to talk about it, we’re gonna make sure that you talk about it because we need to get solutions.”

Friday said the billboard helps by generating “public conversation about a matter that is very, very seriously affecting St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

“You have seen videos all over the place where people are sending videos about St. Vincent, how dangerous the place is and so on and so forth, and the ranking where we are in crime. 

“Do you think people don’t see that beyond our shores? How do you deal with that? By pretending it doesn’t happen? No, we have a serious discussion about it. And we seek to find ways in which to reduce it. And the way we say to do it is let’s confront this. 

“When you have a difficult problem, you don’t hide from it. And this government, they have been pushing it aside as though it doesn’t matter. And it catches up with you eventually. So if in the short term you don’t want to take measures now, even discuss it so that you could come up with the measures to deal with it, then it will fester and become a more serious problem and will affect us even more as we go on.”

Friday said that if the crime situation improves, the opposition would see it as a positive but said the government has a tendency to be “flippant” about the crime situation. 

He noted that the murder of five people in a mass shooting in Kingstown last July — the worst single killing in recent history — made headlines internationally.

“You think people don’t know about that? So we’re going to pretend it didn’t happen.”

Friday said the opposition is dissatisfied with the government’s response to the crime situation.

“… the government has been very flippant, they have not been addressing it in a serious way, they have not really engaged in the kind of conversation we need to have. 

“In fact, they seem to be pretending that somehow this is not a crisis situation for us,” the opposition leader said, noting that the homicide record was broken in two consecutive years.

“And you’re telling me that some of this does not alarm the government to say, ‘Boy, something is wrong; we got to deal with it.’

“We are on par here now to have a higher rate of homicide this year than we’ve had historically, say back in 10, 15 years ago.”

Friday said that acknowledging the crime situation is the first step in addressing it.

“This government does not acknowledge that we have a problem and a lot of the reaction you’re hearing from people who are opposed to the billboards … are persons who are spokespeople for the ULP and they want to be able to be judged by the intentions rather than by the effect of what their policies are doing.”

The opposition leader said there must be a broad-based approach, including all civil society, to formulate a plan to address the crime situation.

“My plan is that the NDP, in government, we will actually establish whether you call it a commission or a taskforce or a committee of that sort, where you have experts and civil society groups, church groups, teachers, various people who have input to put into this and show that we are seriously addressing the problem and that it is a problem that can be dealt with. It’s a social problem.”

He said a certain acceptance of crime as “just inevitable” is creeping into the discourse in the country.

“… but the point is that it is a social problem. … the point is, how do you find alternatives for young people to … to see that this is a better choice?”

Friday responded to the accusation that he is playing politics with the crime situations. 

“… I am not playing politics. … you would know that from my approach over the past that if anything, I understate things. People want you to be controversial. So, today, we put up a billboard that states a fact. It doesn’t make up anything. It’s not an allegation.”

3 replies on “Homicide stats billboard not geared at tourists — Opposition Leader says”

  1. Friday why Cut off yo nose to spite yo face!! It’s unbelievable when you politicians put your party before your country….I really don’t want to be disrespectful so I’ll keep it clean… someone should take that billboard down asap

  2. Joseph Henry says:

    How many more murders have to happen before some Vincentians can come to reality about the crisis.We are becoming a culture of death in St.Vincent. Does one wait until one cannot enter your front door before you can clean your yard? A drastic situation demands drastic measures. An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal. Good leaders must not only be able to think, but must also be able to act with reason in difficult times. Don’t bury your head in the sand and hope that the charging bull coming at you, would change course. A good captain never surrender and bail from the ship, because he can’t control the winds of the storm. What would it take to show some Vincentians, that their government has thrown in the towel on crime on the island?

  3. Julia Lewis says:

    Ralph needs to come face to face with the crime statistics. It’s Friday’s fault if he fails to address the crime problem. He is doing the prime minister’s job while Gonsalves is asleep at the wheel. Don’t blame the messenger. Talk about the facts. Everybody wants a safe SVG. Who better to tackle the problem hands on than the head of national security?
    But where is he on the issue? I’m sure you believe that Vincentian lives matter. Does Gonsalves believe that? If he does he would do something about it ASAP.

Comments closed.