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Opposition Leader Godwin Friday in a Jan. 9, 2024 photo.
Opposition Leader Godwin Friday in a Jan. 9, 2024 photo.
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The New Democratic Party’s (NDP) billboard about the number of homicides in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2023 is forcing an “uncomfortable conversation,” says Opposition Leader Godwin Friday.

If it’s an uncomfortable conversation, then let’s have it now, rather than later,” he said on Hot97 FM in response to questions about the billboard that the party erected at Gibson Corner last week.

Friday has been flagging the issue of crime in the country and delivered a national address on the topic in December 2022

However, neither this nor his frequent comments about addressing crime in SVG has agitated the public as much as the billboard, which understated by three the number of homicides in the country in 2023, saying there were 52 homicides  but there were 55.

The full text of the billboard reads:

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“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.

I don’t [know] if it’s a new approach… For me, it’s a matter of integrity. It’s about talking truth to people and for people to understand that I do this out of genuine concern and trust,” Friday said.

“It’s not about scoring political points. So if what I do triggers a response in this way, then it means that people are genuinely concerned about what is happening and that they are taking notice of our representation on it, that, at least they’re not ignoring it because it’s a serious problem. And that’s what I want, is for them to take it seriously.”

“And you don’t want to be in that place because whether I put it on a billboard, I put it on a social media flyer, the people know,” Friday said.

“They have their own organisation; there’s something that puts out this information and then people read it, and they avoid us because they say that’s the most dangerous place in the Caribbean.”

In 2022, SVG recorded 42 homicides, followed by 55 in 2023, another record number, making the country among the leading nations for homicides per capita in the world.

Further, police statistics show there were 408 murders in SVG between 2012 and 2023, only 147 (36.03%) of which were “solved”.

The opposition has rejected accusations that the billboard is geared at visitors to the country and would affect the nation’s tourism performance.

NDP billboard
The NDP billboard at Gibson Corner.

“If you think I’m anti-tourism, I cannot be because that’s been my portfolio. That’s what I’ve been talking about all the time,” he said, adding that he helped to promote the ICC MEn’s T20 World Cup during the trophy tour visit of Bequia on Friday.

“But the point that I’m making is that this is not about tourism. Let’s not make it about tourism. It’s about safety and security in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Friday said. 

The opposition leader said the first priority of a government is to make its citizens and its country secure. 

“And we haven’t been doing this under this present administration so we have to call them out on it.”

Friday said that he would stand by his position on the billboard even if visitors to the country say that it scared them.

Because what happens is that this is dealing with the problem not just for now, but for the future because this is not something that’s going to go away,” he said.

“It’s going to be a problem if we don’t deal with it. And the billboard gets us talking now. I hope now that it allows the government to see that this is a matter that you can’t just simply push aside and pretend it doesn’t happen, and that we could address it, not just for the tourists, but for our people as well.”

Friday said thatthe way the violent crime situation has been in this country, “you will have to say that the government failed and what is more serious is that they have failed to listen. 

“And they have not been listening to me, they have not been listening to the experts. They have not been listening to the church groups. They’ve just been pretending that somehow it doesn’t happen.”

He rejected an apparently sarcastic suggestion by one of the show’s hosts that the billboard should have said “52 murders, but none were foreigners, none were tourists”.

“Then that makes it about tourists,” Friday said.  “I’m making this about the people of St. Vincent who live here 24/7 and who feel insecure going to the places that I used to go to, who are worried about the trend in violent crime in the country. That is my priority.”

Regarding the presumed impact of the billboard on the tourism industry, Friday said, “I care about the bread and butter of everybody in this country. 

“But if you have a situation where you have a problem, and you pretend it is not there, it doesn’t mean that people are not seeing it. The billboard is saying something that people know, they see, they know about. These things have been on social media, which have a much wider reach than we have with the billboard here.”

he said that the NDP’s concern  “is that we have not been having any serious response from the government to this problem. 

“We talk about it all the time. The government, the Minister of National Security, have big national address, he doesn’t deal with the matter,” he said of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

“Does that mean because you don’t talk about it is not a problem? …  The problem is that those persons who are opposed to it, they seem to think that if you don’t address it, if you pretend it’s not there, then somehow you’re doing good for the country. 

“How could that possibly be true? When you have uncomfortable problems, you have difficult problems, you have to confront them head-on,” he said, adding that that has been the NDP’s approach.

“We have called on the government over and over, let’s have a non-partisan or a bipartisan or a broad-based approach to dealing with crime. As the song says, when rain fall, it don’t fall on one man house. With crime, this is what happens. It affects everybody.”

Friday said he believes that the government’s response “in typical fashion, they will probably try to rubbish it.

“But I hope that underlying they will say, ‘Yeah, this is something that we really have to deal with. Because it is true. If we don’t deal with it in the short term, it just becomes a bigger and bigger problem.”

The opposition leader said he “absolutely” was still willing to work with the government to address crime in the country. 

It’s a national problem. And it’s not just homicides,” he said, noting that a caller to the programme had spoken at the sexual violence in the country.

“This is something that is way out of proportion for St. Vincent and Grenadines,” Friday said. 

Friday also said the theft of agricultural produce and farm animals is also a major problem.

Fridays said that the NDP would not be in trouble politically if the murder rate falls drastically. 

“What we have to do in St. Vincent and Grenadines is to get a grip of the situation on crime. We need to get more policing on the ground. We need to have cooperation with international authorities and to stem the flow of guns coming into the country.”

One reply on “Billboard forcing ‘uncomfortable conversation’ about crime in SVG — Friday”

  1. Tommy Joseph says:

    Discussion is exactly ! ! whats needed in svg discussion has been sniffled to death instead every week we have a new ” miss ” something or a fet to take the peoples mind off their hardships and the cause thereof , take a quick look at the amount of on line news sites in svg now take a look at how many allow you to make a comment on any topic without first dancing a merry go around jig ,the people have no avenue to vent their thoughts without having to deal with the powers that be and their villans and cronies, it would seems that Putta has already arrived in svg some time ago lets hope he did not bring any windows or tea with him

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