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National Address by the Hon. Dr. Godwin Friday, President of the New Democrat Party and Leader of the Opposition, September 21, 2022

Fellow Vincentians, greetings. Several weeks ago, when I spoke with you about conditions in our country, I promised to continue our conversation on important national issues. Education is such an issue. And with schools reopening, a discussion on education is not only timely, but necessary. Opening of school is an exciting time for our children. As parents, we want the best education for them. We know it is about preparing them for life. Few things can be more important. The start of the school year brings its own challenges and uncertainties. We accept them, and try to meet them as best we can.

What we cannot accept, however, is the chaos that too often comes with the opening of school. On opening day this year, many schools were not ready. Students at prep school were sent back home because the building was still being painted. Grammar school could not reopen because the regular school building was still not ready. And a temporary plywood school at Arnos Vale was being used by another school. Elsewhere, there was delays for a day or two, and even for an entire week. Official confusion now appears to be the norm. This could have been avoided with proper planning. This is not a time for unsubstantiated government statements about being ready. The minister of education should get his act together, and show leadership and competence. Our children and teachers deserve better.

We all know the importance of education. A good education is the best inheritance we can give our children. And it’s a sound investment in our country’s future. However, our education system must not place unbearable burdens on families. Parents should look to the new school year with hope, happy that their children are finally returning to their classroom. They should not have to worry unnecessarily about the high cost of textbooks, shoes, and school uniforms, and the ever increasing registration fees. Students preparing for CSEC and CAPE exams should only focus on what might be on their exam papers, and not on how they would pay for their subjects. For those hoping to attend university, they need to know that there is an affordable way to do so. That they won’t have to mortgage the family home and risk everyone’s welfare to pay for their further education.

Our education system must be relevant to the times, also. It must develop the whole child, and instill within him or her an abiding curiosity about the world, and enduring love of learning. At the moment, there is not enough support or focus on creating global citizens. Students have received their CSEC and CAPE results. There are some outstanding individual performances. And a few schools did very well. Congratulations to students, teachers, and parents for those results. But sadly, we know that this is not the whole story. It is only the good part.

The full picture is troubling, as far top many secondary school students do not make it to graduation within the normal five years, or ever. For example, like my alma mater, the Bequia Community High School. This year, the principal reported at the graduation ceremony that of 21 students who started in form one, only three made it to the graduating class of 2022, which had a total of 12 students. This is not a unique situation. Other schools across the country have poor graduation numbers. They are not getting the support they need from government. Consequently, they are failing our children. St. Vincent and the Grenadines has one of the highest rates of repeaters and dropouts in the OECS. This is a serious problem that must be fixed urgently.

It is accepted that a good education provides better options for young people, and is an effective way to combat crime and other antisocial behavior. The escalation in violent crime, especially gun related killings, demands urgent action from the government to fix our failing education system. So that it can provide positive options and more opportunities for our young people. The country needs less rhetoric from the prime minister and the government, and more constructive action. We must cater to the diverse needs of students by providing programs that engage students and motivate them to complete secondary school. This requires not slogans and photo ops, but a real plan to deliver for our children, their parents, and teachers.

Teachers, they play a vital role in our society. A good teacher inspires children and helps them to develop a love of learning. Yet, we see that many of our best and most experienced teachers remain excluded from the classroom because they were fired by the government for not taking the COVID-19 vaccine. This misguided and hardheaded approach by the government has left schools without sufficient teachers to start the year. Over 200 teachers remain out of work, yet the government says there are not enough teachers and they must hire relief teachers. Why hire inexperienced people to act as teachers, when there are over 200 experienced, competent teachers, ready to return to work, to teach our children? This makes no sense. The government’s stubborn response has been to tell teachers they must reapply to get back their jobs. This is without any assurance of actually getting back their jobs and pensions and benefits. The teachers, rightly, see this as adding insult to injury.

The solution is to reinstate the teachers now and welcome them back to the classroom. No one is buying the government’s legalistic excuses and vague promises. And the teachers have said they are not taking the bait. So what must be done? Instead of having an adversarial relationship with teachers, we must stand with them. They are a vital part of our education system, working with students, parents, and the community to nurture our children. We must do all we can to maintain that positive relationship and make it productive. We must also ensure fairness and equity for teachers. In this regard, we support the teachers and public servants in their call for a salary increase, starting with 10% over two years. An NDP government would agree to that increase. We also agree that the teachers who were fired by the government because of the vaccine mandate should be reinstated and compensated.

Despite the self praise and boasts of this government, we have a lot of ground to make up in our education system. Plasters and platitudes cannot mask the failure of the system anymore, and cannot comfort students and parents who are losing out. To make things better, I recommend the following. We must improve conditions in schools, by maintaining the buildings regularly so that they don’t become uninhabitable and have to be closed for long times for repairs. This approach would avoid the spending of millions of dollars to build temporary plywood schools, to replace the rundown ones. Those millions could be better spent in a planned, regular maintenance program.

And on other amenities, our children are part of the 21st century economy. So our schools must prepare them for it. The new technologies used in online learning, during the pandemic, have opened our eyes to promising possibilities. Let us embrace them and integrate them permanently into the way we teach and learn. Giving a child a laptop is not the fulfillment of that objective, but merely the beginning of it. This also requires reliable, high speed internet service in all schools. And in fact, in every home. High speed internet is no longer an optional luxury, but a necessary part of education. We must upgrade teacher training to make effective use of information technology in everyday teaching. The now familiar platforms and techniques of online learning should not be abandoned just because we have returned to the traditional classroom. Let them be our new normal.

Further, it is not only about how we teach, but also about what we teach. The present curriculum and programs do not adequately prepare all students for life. I am calling for a comprehensive review of our curriculum, at all levels, to ensure it supports, challenges, and prepares our children for the future. For too long, our education system has focused on traditional academic programs that culminate with CSEC, CAPE, and a university degree. Our schools should also be equipped to provide and assess students in skills and technical aptitudes needed for jobs and our economic development. The Caribbean Vocational Qualification, CVQ, is part of the process of achieving certified skill workers, promoted by the CARICOM single market and economy.

Though this CARICOM initiative was established in 2007, it was not until 2016, almost a decade later, that St. Vincent and the Grenadines was granted approval to offer Caribbean Vocational Qualification. And while other CARICOM countries have been offering CVQs at levels one and two with much success at the secondary school level, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has in effect been offering limited skills training to limited numbers of out of school use. Indeed, since St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been left behind regional counterparts because the necessary instruments to facilitate implementation at the secondary level are not in place. So we see why, after 21 years in office, Prime Minister Gonsalves, what lament that there are not enough skilled tradespersons to take up jobs in our construction industry. And that despite high unemployment here, the government has asked to allow foreign workers to take jobs in hotel construction. We must turn this around.

Therefore, we recommend that the following strategies be implemented. One, ensure that technical and vocational education is well integrated into the education system so that every child has the opportunity for a comprehensive education. Two, ensure competency based curricular, linked to the CVQ framework, in all secondary schools and other suitable settings in the workplace and the wider community. And three, establish a qualification framework that enables learners to move seamlessly between academic and vocational qualifications, in formal and less formal education settings.

Also, we must revamp and expand The YES Programme to provide opportunity for on-the-job training, while earning a living wage. Further, increase opportunities for skills development, and lifelong learning, through vigorous and well-managed continuing education programs. I’m a big supporter of such programs. In addition to technical and vocational programs, we must teach agriculture in all primary and secondary schools. We are, after all, an agriculture nation. Further, to develop the whole person, the whole child. And promote our culture, music, art, dance, and other forms of cultural expression must be regarded, not merely as optional courses, but as essential components of a modern education. So they must be taught at all levels and in all schools. In keeping with this, and the recognized importance of shaping our unique national identity, instruction in the Garifuna language should be made widely available in our schools.

Education should not be unaffordable and a burden for families. The rising cost of living continues to hurt families. At this time of the year, school books, uniforms, bus fares, and daily lunches cut deeply into family budgets. We believe that VAT should be reduced to lower the living costs for everyone. I spoke about this several weeks ago.

And we must do other things too. Registration fees for secondary schools are too much. At a time when families are facing pressures across the board, we believe registration fees should be eliminated. Further, CSEC and CAPE subjects must be paid by the states. The state parents and students should not have to go begging friends and strangers for money to pay for their subjects. Having admitted all students to secondary school, and encouraged them along the way, it makes good sense to complete the process by paying for their final exams for their subjects. For too many families, the joy of securing a place at university is dampened by the fear of expensive student loans. Our student loan rates are among the highest in the region. We have a plan to cut those rates in half, to four and a half percent.

While the ULP have become consumed with their internal divisions, and their shelved succession plans, the rest of us, who care more about our country, must plan for the future. We in NDP have a plan to deliver at all levels of our education system. It supports students, teachers, and parents. Most importantly, it is a plan that will build our education, and skills levels, to meet the needs of the economy. And to prepare our people for jobs now, and in the future.

My friends, this is not the last word you will hear from me about education. I also want to hear from you, however, you, our people. I especially want to hear from parents, teachers and, most importantly, students about the problems you encounter and your ideas about how to fix them. As part of this process, I will be convening a round table, maybe more, with educators, employers, and other interested persons, to further discuss education and chart the way forward. I want a more effective and responsive education system that delivers for all. I believe we can do better. And I know that working together, we will do better. I wish our students and teachers all the best for the new school year and beyond. My friends, thanks for listening. God bless you. And may God bless our beloved country.

National Address by the Hon. Dr. Godwin Friday, President of the New Democrat Party and Leader of the Opposition, August 11, 2022

National Address by the Hon. Dr. Godwin Friday, President of the New Democrat Party and Leader of the Opposition, August 11, 2022

Fellow Vincentians. 

Greetings. 

I wish to speak with you about the state of affairs—political and economic — in our country and how we might address the challenges we face. 

Recently, the ULP held their convention. You may have seen or heard about it.  Ordinarily I would not comment on it. I mention it now only because the ULP, for the time being, holds the reins of government and, therefore, their current predicament has serious implications for the running of our country. 

We saw how Gonsalves and the ULP turned their Convention into a discussion about themselves. Rather than focusing on the issues that matter to you, the people– your jobs, your businesses, your standard of living– they spent their time talking about themselves, their personal ambitions and Gonsalves’ aborted succession plans.   

 

Notably, having spent years building up Saboto Caesar, it took Gonsalves one weekend to knock him down as apparently no longer being fit to be leader of the ULP. Having spent years declaring that he was part of the ULP family in whom he was well-pleased, it became abundantly clear that there is only one family that matters in the ULP – the Gonsalves family. 

 

That is a crisis that their Party and its long-suffering members will have to come to terms with. That display at the Convention proved beyond a shadow of doubt that the ULP is a house deeply divided, that is built, not on democratic values and practices, but on the whims and autocratic fancies of one man, Ralph Gonsalves.    

 

For the rest of us in the country, it proved that the ULP are unfit for office, as they have no plan, no programme, no hope beyond clinging desperately to power. 

 

There, Gonsalves urged his followers in the ULP to submit to his guidance, but it is clear where that guidance will lead. He will destroy his party and sacrifice the best interests of our country to get his own way and secure his chosen successor –his son Camillo–as Prime Minister. 

 

While the leadership of the ULP is hopelessly divided and they are caught up in their own confusion, we in the NDP are focused on the issues that matter to you. We know them because we talk with you about them.

My dear people, it is time for us to move forward as a country. No man is indispensable!  Of necessity, the baton of leadership must pass to new hands, or our country will fall further behind, and our people will pay a high price for it. 

 

I offer myself to serve you. In the last general election, you honoured me by making the NDP the party of choice for the majority of the people and me, its leader, the popular choice as political leader. In the profoundest sense of democracy, where majority rules, you voted for the NDP and for change. But, our political system has its shortcomings and at times gives a party the popular vote, yet not the government. 

Nevertheless, the proverbial writing is on the wall: change is necessary, and will come. It will come, not because I say so, but because you the people have decided that the time for it has come, for as one former ULP supporter recently conceded to me “One man can’t run the country forever”. 

 

Meeting People

I have been meeting our people all over the country:  in villages; in their homes; on the streets; and, when invited, in their places of worship. Wherever I go, the message is the same.  You say to me and my team that you want us to focus on the things that matter to you— focus on your needs and your concerns: your jobs; your livelihoods; your future.  In other words, focus now on bread-and-butter issues– because our current circumstances require it.  

 

Enough of the gutter politics! What may be entertainment for some, is profoundly serious for our country, and most of us are sick and tired of the selfishness, the arrogance, the bluster, and bombast in what now passes for leadership in the ULP and government. 

They sow the seeds of division and would set us against one another—in our homes (brother against brother), in our workplaces (colleague teacher against colleague), in social circles (friend against friend), in places of worship (elder against elder). 

Thankfully, we are better than that, and know that we can do better. 

Our present circumstances and examples from elsewhere in the world have shown us that political leaders who seek to divide the people—who seek to divide us irreparably— serve only themselves.  The people become merely the means to an end, that end being personal political power for its own sake!

Shutting up opposing voices, demonizing, and vilifying carriers of alternative views, whether in a political party or in the society at large, can never be right. We can’t continue that way. Such politics are not relevant to our time!  

Our people, especially the young people, understand that. They tell us that they are not happy with such politics.  Our people are better informed than ever and demand more from their political leaders. 

Let us all agree on that. Gutter politics and narcissistic self-reverence in the political leader have not served our people well and have led our nation down a slippery slope to dark place, where democracy is threatened, and our standard of living has declined.  If we, the inheritors of this beautiful country, don’t stand up against it, the situation can only get worse.  We have a duty to inform ourselves, defend our democratic values and work for progressive change.

 

Buccama Workers

The surest way to improve our standard of living is to grow our economy and provide employment for our people. That is why we support the efforts to revive the troubled Buccament Bay hotel project.  However, despite extravagant promises from the government about jobs, it appears that in the rebuilding work foreign workers– mainly from the Dominican Republic—hold most of the jobs. 

What happen to Vincentian workers; they don’t need jobs?  We have a serious unemployment problem in our country. Instead of talking about who will succeed him, Prime Minister Gonsalves should address this situation and assure our people that they will be given priority for available jobs at the project. 

Fix Home in the North

To many people in the north whose home were damaged by the volcano still don’t have a roof over their heads. Their homes have not been repaired thought the government has money to do it.  It is long overdue.  NEMO, BRAGSA fix the home and help the people to return to their normal lives. Forget about political partisanship. We are one people. Give help according to need. That is the only valid basis for assisting the affected people. 

 

 

Reinstate Unvaccinated Teachers, Public Servants 

And what of the teachers, public servants and police officers who were fired because of the government’s misguided vaccine mandate? 

 

I have called for the reinstatement of the fired teachers, public servants, and police officers. Prime Minister Gonsalves recently announced that teachers would have to re-apply to get their jobs back. So, there is no guarantee of getting their job back: they might pick and choose who to “rehire”.  Moreover, rehired workers would have to start over, with no guarantee of getting their benefits or long service awards. To tell teachers they must reapply for their jobs is disrespectful to them after they have served selflessly and will continue to devote their lives to the future of our children. 

The punitive measures against unvaccinated teachers and health care workers must stop. All over the world, governments, businesses, and other organizations have rejected covid-19 vaccine mandates and have earnestly begun the process of learning to live with the disease, which will be with us for a very long time to come, perhaps forever. 

The Gonsalves government has mishandled the COVID crisis from the beginning and continue to do so. They are out of touch with the concerns of the people because they have been isolated in a bubble far from the everyday concerns of the people. 

Note the recent embarrassing episode in which a memo from the Ministry of Health, signed by the Permanent Secretary, indicated that health workers would be required to take a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot every five months only for the Minister to say the following day that the memo was an error and no such decision had been taken by the government. Can you believe that?  Here, there is clearly a failure of governance.

 

Cost of Living 

The ULP’s self-absorption and failure of governance have real consequences for the people. The government has failed to address the biggest, most pressing issue facing our country today, the cost-of-living crisis.          

As the cost-of-living increases, our standard of living falls. 

Life has become more difficult and challenging for families, many of whom are now forgoing essentials and cutting back in every way they can. 

It is a sad reality that those who have the least are hardest hit.  Spending on necessities takes up a larger portion of their income. 

Increase in cost of living is not just a challenge for today, but or the future also. 

Rising prices, with stagnant wages, undermine our standard of living. They force persons to dip into limited savings, to postpone retirement (if possible) and put off making big life decisions like getting married, building a home, or mortgaging a family home to pay for a child’s education.  

For our businesses, particularly small enterprises, it hampers the ability to invest, inhibits hiring of new workers and halts growth.

The initial aftershock of the Covid pandemic has been exacerbated and magnified by the Russian war in Ukraine. The impact on food, fuel and food prices has been felt worldwide.  Average wheat prices increased by 165 per cent between May 2021 and May 2022. This has fed into a cycle of ever-increasing prices. Some cooking oils have increased by over 200% since the start of the year. International rice prices are at a 12-month high and expected to increase further. Oil prices are high.

 

These global trends impact us in SVG as local prices soar. I do grocery shopping frequently in Kingstown, doing my own errands or when Mrs Friday gives me her shopping list, purchasing from the vendors and in the supermarkets. So, I see this first-hand.  And I, too, have questioned the cashiers from time to time to verify that the price of one item or another was not an error, because it had increased so much.  

Over the past 8 months the prices of food, fuel and other goods have risen considerably.   Current prices at a rural shop on the mainland show that a pound of chicken back has increased from $1.75 to $2.50, leg quarts for $3.00 to $4.00, turkey from $3.50 to $5.00, a small margarine from $4.95 to $6.50, 1 litre of cooking oil from $10.95 to $16.00, a bag of penny loaf bread from $2.00 to $3.00.   

The cost of electricity has risen. The fuel surcharge was $0.28 per unit in March 2021 and increased to $0.72 in July this year. 

A recent survey reported in the Searchlight newspaper showed that nearly 82 per cent of respondents said that the hike in cooking oil, electricity and food prices have caused them to cut back on basic food items with many saying they are now paying $200 more for the same basket of goods bought before the Russian invasion of Ukraine a few months ago. 

 

Gasoline at the pump is now $18.16 per gallon; it was $8.50 in September 2020. Obviously, the high gas price makes things harder for all motorists and puts pressure on minibus operators, taxi drivers and fisherfolk who use fuel in their work daily. 

 

High cost of living is not some passing phenomenon that will be over in another month or two; it is expected to be with us for a quite a long time.  

The government has a duty to do everything it can to cushion the effects of rising costs on households and protect our communities.  

Further delay in taking mitigation measures will only cause more pain and suffering. 

Across the OECS and in the wider Caribbean, governments have cut fuel taxes, reduced import charges, controlled the prices of basic goods, increased direct supports to those most in need and helped with utility bills.

 

Wherever I go, I hear the cry from ordinary people: “I need help”. 

“Why is the government not doing more to help me with the high cost of living?”  “Do they even have a plan to deal with this problem?”

 

I know that every day,  making ends meet is becoming more difficult. I know of the struggle to pay light bills, to put food on the table, to buy shoes, clothes, and books to send your children back to school in September. 

A few days of road work might help a bit but can’t cover most of the bills. 

More relief is needed.  We in the NDP have a plan to immediately help to ease the effects of rising cost of living and ensure that we protect families. 

We urge the following:   

1)   Reduce VAT from 16% to 13% and ensure that the savings are passed on to ordinary consumers. This will help everyone across the board;

2)   Increase the number of zero-rated VAT items;

3)   Immediately repeal the Customs Service Charge increase (i.e., “the Big Tax on Everything”) to reduce import costs;

4)   Increase support for lower income families by expanding existing support payments and ensure this support is distributed based on need and not by political favour;

5)   Provide import duty concessions for the transportation industry, that is to say minivans, buses and taxis. 

6)   Restrict unlimited increase in Vinlec bills by putting a cap on the fuel surcharge.  

These measures are practical and realistic and can deliver benefit to everyone immediately. 

Government revenue from VAT receive a boost from the higher prices for goods and services. As prices go up, so does government’s revenue from VAT. We must put people first, not government revenues first. I said it early in the COVID crisis and say it again: put the money where the pain is. That is, with families who are being crushed by the increase in cost of living.

 

Conclusion

We know and have always known, that we are stronger when we stand together. We value community and look out for one another. 

Everyone has a role to play in getting us out of this difficult situation:  

     government must look to do everything it can to reduce costs and support those who need help;

     importers and retailers must continue to do everything they can to hold prices in the short term; and now more than ever we need to ensure that cost reductions are passed on to consumers.

                                                                         

With resolve and focused leadership, we can turn this time of challenge into a moment of opportunity that can be our springboard to a better tomorrow.  But this requires political leadership that focuses on real problems not on made up ones, and puts our people’s welfare at the top of the agenda.

  

Anyone who does not see that is out of touch and out of time. 

Let us not be distracted; we must remain laser-focused on dealing with the real and immediate problems confronting us—i.e., making ends meet, doing right by the teachers, public servants and police officers who were fired because of the government’s misguided vaccine mandate; prioritising our people for jobs from projects such as the Buccama hotel re-development; helping farmers and fisherfolk to become more productive and to be truly ready to benefit from initiatives in agriculture and the blue economy.  

 

I want us to have a better future. I want our young people to be able to stay here and have a good life, with good jobs, decent health care, safe communities and most importantly with abiding hope for a brighter future. 

 

We will talk again over the coming weeks as I continue to show how we intend to reach our goal of improving our political and economic conditionsin our country.

 

I believe in our people. I believe in our country.

I believe We can do better!  

Working together,r we will meet the present challenges. 

Working together, we will set the course for a brighter future for all. 

Stay strong my people.

 

And may God bless us all.  Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Unity Labour Party’s Convention and its Autocratic Leader

Unity Labour Party’s Convention and its Autocratic Leader

Dr. Ralph Gonsalves’ political beliefs and deep rooted philosophy have been influenced by authoritarian and socialist leaders. In the 1970s, former Prime Minister, the late Robert Milton Cato, labelled him a communist and a dictator. As a result, he was unable to win a seat in the elections that he contested with political organisations that he formed. It was not until he joined the Labour Party, he won the North Central Windward constituency. At the recently held Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) convention, Vincentians heard from the real dictator.

At the convention, he took the time to list the ULP’s aims and objectives as they are in party’s constitution. And, stressed on the objective which states that, ‘members should refrain from making public statements contrary to the declared principles and policies of the party’. He gave them a stern warning not to criticize the party.  He didn’t say what the penalty was, if any member or supporter criticizes the party. One can only imagine what the penalty would be. So, a member or supporter cannot criticize publicly, cannot criticize privately nor criticize at the convention. What does that tell us?

However, more and more members and supporters of the ULP have begun to make profound public statements against their leader. They are dissatisfied with what is taking place in their party and the country. They have had enough of Dr. Gonsalves and the ULP. They have now begun to see the: victimization, corruption, nepotism, and the lack of accountability of the ULP government. The New Democratic Party (NDP) welcomes such individuals with open arms. We have a big tent. We have a country to build, and we need all the support where necessary. 

It is the mass movement of supporters away from the ULP to the NDP that Dr. Gonsalves has recognized and cannot accept. So, he attacked the NGO’s in the country and cursed what he described as imperialism at the convention. But, he sucks up to imperialism when it suits him. The British grant financing to the port project in Kingstown is 27.7 million pound sterling.  Is that imperialist funding? Further, his vain attack on the president of the NDP, Dr. Godwin Friday, is only making him more popular. Dr. Friday is the people’s choice.

Vincentians must not be fooled by Dr. Gonsalves and the number of projects that he outlined at the convention. For twenty one (21) years, he has been talking about constructing a hospital, he has not delivered it. What benefits are there for the poor and working class in a new parliament building? His hotel projects seem to be never ending. Dr. Gonsalves did not mention how he is going to ease the burden of the exorbitant gasoline price for Vincentians. He did not state what measures he would put in place to reduce the high cost of living. He did not say how the thousands of young bright Vincentians who are at home for years and are unemployed would get a job. He did not say one word about our agricultural sector and the plans to revive it. He did not mention a word on the cost of electricity and what he would do to reduce the high fuel surcharge, and how he is going to solve the crime situation in the country. His main concern is his obsession with power, while most Vincentians suffer. 

The disunity in the ULP continues. The cracks are widening. Persons are leaving the ULP every day. And, Dr. Gonsalves does not have the time and the strength to govern St. Vincent and the Grenadines and settle dispute among the three warring factions in the ULP.

The NDP has a better way

We have a clear plan and the determination to build a better St. Vincent and the Grenadines for our future. For too long, a lack of economic opportunities has seen many of our people leave for opportunities in Canada, United Kingdom, USA, St. Kitts and other countries. Many are lost to our islands and never return. A strong economy and good infrastructure will bring foreign investment and increased wages for all Vincentians.

We will pay special attention to our health sector. We will also construct a new hospital in St Vincent and the Grenadines. We will ensure it is certified as a training school as well. The NDP will also oversee the roll-out of a National Health Insurance Scheme. We will also introduce a Patient Travel Subsidy to help patients get to important appointments, and upgrade or construct new community health clinics.

Also, our fisherfolk and farmers have been neglected and have not been able to make a good living. We will completely reinvigorate our fishing sector – creating a separate Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Conservation to give this vial industry the attention it deserves. We will help finance new boats and equipment for our fisherfolk through our National Development Bank. We won’t dictate to fisherfolk what they need; instead we will work with them to get them the right equipment to succeed.

Our plan also includes fixing and building new feeder roads so our farmers can be more productive. We will also finance new equipment to make their job easier, and to make them more productive so that farming is more appealing to younger people. We will ensure that there are real markets in place for their produce. So that when you put in a crop and wait months for it to bear, you will have somewhere to sell it into at a fair price. We want our farmers to be farmers, focusing on what they do best and earn a decent living so they can build a home, send their children to school and save for retirement. The NDP has the programs and policies to get St. Vincent and the Grenadines working.

Chaos in the ULP

Chaos in the ULP

The much anticipated Unity Labour Party (ULP) convention is heading for an anticlimax. Probably, the most publicized contest for deputy leader of any political party was to have taken place on July 31. The excitement that was generated by the ULP’s supporters has disappeared. Neither Camillo Gonsalves nor Saboto Caesar will be deputy leader. It was revealed by the political leader that Montgomery Daniel would be the deputy leader of the ULP.

The decision to name Montgomery Daniel deputy leader tells us that Camillo Gonsalves is incapable of being deputy leader. It tells us that Saboto Caesar is incapable of being deputy leader. So, Montgomery Daniel as deputy leader, does that mean that Mr. Daniel will be the next leader of the ULP? Searchlight Newspaper of June 14, 2022, in an extensive interview with Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves reported, “We’ll just have a deputy leader and it is recognized that that deputy leader …… would rise to leadership” he said, “adding that once the convention ends, there will be a clear indication of the party’s plan for succession.”

It is crystal clear for all to see. There is no future for Saboto Caesar in the ULP. There is no future for Saboto Caesar in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And, there is no future for Saboto Caesar in South Central Windward. Also, the party does not want Camillo Gonsalves. East St. George does not want Camillo Gonsalves. And the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines do not want him. 

It was said that Mr. Eustace was too old and he must go. Mr. Eustace went and is relaxing comfortably at home. Now, we are saying that Dr. Gonsalves is old and tired. He sleeps ever where he goes, and he has no new ideas. He must go. Dr. Gonsalves is not in a position at this time to manage the three warring factions in his party and govern the country. The cracks in the ULP have begun to widen, very soon it will fall apart.

It doesn’t matter who leads the ULP in the next general elections. Let it be known that the NDP will win the next general elections.  The people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines need a government with innovative and creative ideas to move the country forward. The NDP will create new jobs and grow our economy; invest in small and medium enterprises; grow our agriculture and fisheries industries and provide funding for science and technology to support our economy.

Our Way Forward for Youth Development

The recently held Youth Parliament created much discussion among some members of the Unity Labour Party (ULP).  As if it were the first time a Youth Parliament was convened. That is far from the truth. It was done regularly under the New Democratic Party (NDP) government. As reported by an online publication, “The first sitting of a youth parliament in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in over 20 years.” The NDP welcomes the return of the Youth Parliament. 

The NDP is concerned about youth development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  We will ensure that our young people have the opportunities to succeed. We know that our most valuable resource is our people and we need them to prosper. Our policy for young people is to ensure that they are earning or learning. This means that they are either furthering their education or are employed.

We have stated on numerous occasions that our major priority is to create the environment to provide thousands of sustainable jobs for the youths of this country. We will implement a number of innovative programs and policies that will create an enabling environment for thousands of jobs to be created. And, has identified Information Technology as one of the important areas that will provide opportunities for our young people. We will place tremendous emphasis on Information Technology to tackle the unemployment situation which exists among our youths, in this country.

We will increase and diversify the scholarship program, more scholarships in more places. The existing scholarship program will be improved to offer a wider variety of opportunities for young people to access higher education in properly accredited universities and colleges worldwide. Diverse scholarships will be sourced to encourage persons into non-traditional education, including opportunities for young people in culture, music and sports. We will also reduce the interest rate for students’ loans. 

The NDP will design and implement non-academic incentive program for youth. The NDP believes that young people in St Vincent and the Grenadines must be encouraged to believe in their own self-worth. With this in mind, the NDP will organize targeted incentive programs to encourage our youth in the many areas of non-academic achievements. And, set up a Youth Parliament. The NDP will encourage and support the formation of a youth parliament where young people with an interest in politics can develop their understanding of the practice and methods of the parliamentary system.

Further, we will work to rehabilitate and reintegrate young offenders to society. An unfortunate mistake made by a young person, should not be a life sentence that condemns him or her to hopelessness. Under a new program to be developed by the NDP, young offenders will be offered second chances through targeted programs of technical and vocational training, counselling and rehabilitation. Also, set up mentorship programs for youth. The mentorship and career guidance program will be re-established with a view to bonding university students to giving back to all secondary schools upon completion of their studies, by way of lectures, mentoring and other tangible ways of contributing to the education of young students. We see the talent and energy of the country’s youths as pivotal in the effort to move our beloved country forward. 

 

 

Reinstate the Workers Now!

Reinstate the Workers Now!

The New Democratic Party (NDP) has reiterated its call for the government to reinstate the teachers, police officers and public servants who were fired because of the vaccine mandate. The NDP maintains that the policy to dismiss the workers was wrong, and it is time for it to be corrected. While the Prime Minister plays with words, such as ‘may’ and ‘considerations’, the workers are suffering.  They are experiencing emotional stress. And, are unable to pay their bills, pay their mortgages and maintain their families.

The message from the NDP on vaccine mandate is consistent. Reflect on this statement that was made by president of the NDP, Dr Friday, in November, 2021: While we, as a party support vaccination as a means of combatting COVID-19, we are philosophically opposed to making the COVID- 19 vaccine mandatory. Mandating vaccines—i.e. forcing people to be vaccinated against their will is not who we are as a democratic society.  It is also not who we wish to be as a people. And, firing government workers and taking away their benefits because they have not taken the COVID- 19 vaccine is cruel and counter-productive and will create more unemployment and misery in our country.

Let us acknowledge that the world was caught off-guard and unprepared by COVID-19. No country was truly prepared to tackle a public health problem on such as large scale.  A year ago, we did not have any safe and effective vaccines against coronavirus; that only became available early this year. It is therefore understandable, if concerning, that our vaccination rates are low, even though safe, effective, and free vaccines are now available. As a democratic society however, our concern and even frustration for some must not manifest into actions likened to dictatorship.

It is true that there is a lot of confusion and misinformation and even disinformation about COVID- 19 vaccines. I do not wish to engage in that debate except to reiterate that I accept that the vaccines provide very strong protection from severe illness and death from COVID-19. 

Also, we now have more knowledge and better tools to combat the virus than when it first emerged. But we will succeed only if we work together, as a nation. If we protect ourselves and others through masking, sanitizing, social distancing, building body immunity, expanded testing (test vaccinated and unvaccinated) and vaccination, we can and will turn the tide on COVID-19. It will take a lot of hard work, and it’s going to take some time.  I have no doubt that we will get there.

Mandating vaccination is not the way to go. All over the world, governments that have considered such as measure as a way out of the pandemic have retreated from mandatory vaccination. But, not in SVG. It is only through collaborative endeavours, communication, and trust that we can win this battle against COVID- 19. The ULP administration has time and again has broken the trust of the people of SVG. They have also neglected to engage with civil society and the private sector in any meaningful way over the years.

Now they have resorted to draconian measures to seek to achieve their aims, while disregarding the impact those measures are having on our public sector workers and the society. They have told teachers, nurses, police officers, other public and state entity workers to get vaccinated or lose their jobs. And, now that the policy has been implemented, workers have been made the problem. Since when did nurses, teachers, other public servants, and police officers become the problem in our country?  Does COVID-19 truly require this government to treat its own workers so unfairly and so harshly? No, it does not.

When did these workers with long service and valuable work experience suddenly become disposable so that they can easily be replaced with new recruits?  Statements by government officials about replacing police officers, teachers, nurses, including those who have many years of service and experience in their jobs with new recruits disrespect those affected employees. 

An NDP government would not have a mandatory vaccination policy and would not be firing public servants because of such a policy. Anyone who is fired or resigns because of the government’s vaccine mandate must be rehired or otherwise compensated without loss of benefits. An NDP government would ensure that anyone who resigns or is dismissed form his/her job because of the government’s vaccine mandate is reinstated or otherwise compensated and will receive all affected benefits as well.

No one should be forced to choose between their body and their bread. There are better and more effective ways to achieve vaccination goals that do not devalue and divide our people. The government’s approach divides families, workplaces, churches, and communities. It fosters resentment and distrust of government and engenders unnecessary fear among our people. Trust and partnership are the cornerstones that would place us well on the path to achieving recommended vaccination targets and better success against the pandemic. These factors are lacking in this administration’s current strategy and what we see here is simply the current administration lying in a bed that they made, as the old adage goes.

We must accept that there are different perspectives and be willing to listen so that we can better understand where we are and where we need to go in combatting COVID-19. In light of the high level of distrust of authority and the COVID- 19 vaccines, it is foolhardy to proceed with the approach that it is “my way or the highway”.

The ULP administration has historically done nothing more than deprecate the views of others. They have stopped listening and therefore choose to take heavy-handed approaches when their leadership failures are laid bare for the world to see.  The poor uptake reflects the failure of the ULP administration to listen and engage with our people. To re-emphasize, the NDP does not support vaccine mandates.  We believe that ethical and collaborative leadership is better and is needed here. 

Remarks upon the visit of the President of the Republic of India

Address by Leader of the Opposition the Honourable Dr. Godwin Friday to Parliament on the Occasion of the Visit of His Excellency Mr. Ram Nath Kovind, President of the Republic of India on May 19, 2022

Greetings.

Your Excellency, it is a great honour for me to join in welcoming you and your delegation to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  I extend this welcome also on behalf of my colleague Members of the Opposition. 

We welcome you as the Head of State of your great nation, the Republic of India, and as a friend. I trust that your journey here, though long, was buoyed with expectations about what you might see here and who you would greet, and pray that over the course of your visit, those expectations would be met and, indeed, that you are now enjoying the warm hospitality of our people.  

Differences and Shared Values

The differences between our countries may seem vast, but what matters most are the things we share that bring us together, ever closer,  in friendship and mutual cooperation.  In a world riven by enmity and strive– often caused by manufactured prejudice and exaggerated fears—we who get along well together must do all we can to promote peace, justice, and harmony in the world.  

We come from opposite sides of the world, you from the East and we from the West.  

You are a great and ancient civilization, interrupted by colonial rule, but once again on a path to wonderful things of your own choosing and forged by your own hands.  We are a young nation, comprised of the original peoples–Kalinago and Garifuna– and newer arrivals, including Indians, who came during colonial times and we, too, are striving to make our way in the world.  

You are the second largest nation on earth by population; we are one of the smallest. Yet, you honor us by choosing to visit. This tells us that the differences mentioned, though seemingly large, are in fact small matters in comparison with the common values and other things that we share. 

We share similar institutions of government and a commitment to human rights and democracy.  India, as the largest democracy on Earth, is an inspiration to us, one of the world’s smallest.  Like you, we believe that despite setbacks from time to time and the constant and often rancorous noises of the process at work, democracy is still the best form of government that humans have yet devised.  Let us persist in that belief and continue to work to perfect it in practice. 

We note the great economic and technological advances your country continues to make. We are grateful for the economic, technical, and diplomatic assistance you have provided to us over the years and, in particular, we note the timely contribution of covid19 vaccines at the height of the pandemic. It is my hope and indeed my expectation that these spheres of cooperation and collaboration will expand and, inevitably, deepen our ties with one another. 

Indian Culture in SVG

The contributions in the cultural sphere are no less significant. Colonialism brought our peoples and cultures together over 160 years ago, when Indians were brought here to provide labor for the colonial economic machine. The sinews of those people, their sweat and tears helped to build this land. The hardships they endured have not been in vain, as their children and successive generations have contributed to our national development and made successful lives for themselves in SVG:  your diaspora; their home.    

Their arrival is celebrated every year with reverence, enjoyment, and hope. We must applaud and support the efforts of those who seek to reclaim and promote Indian culture here, e.g. the Indian Heritage Foundation– a far better approach than in the early years when assimilation and cultural annihilation were the order of the day.  For after all, we must do more than simply share a common space: we must inhabit it together, shape it together, and make it a thing of joy and beauty—a light in the world.  

On the lighter side, but no less significant, we share a common love of cricket.  Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Tendulkar are as much our heroes as Sobers, Richards and Lara are yours.  May the friendly rivalry continue and may we always be able to appreciate each other’s accomplishments.

Conclusion

Excellency, I am happy that you will see various parts of our country:  La Soufriere volcano in its awesome splendor; and the Grenadines–specifically Canouan–in their pristine beauty.  I am confident that you will enjoy the experience.

We wish you safe travels in your overseas mission.

When you return home, please convey our best wishes and gratitude to your Government and people.    

Thank you.

Crime is Out of Hand in SVG

Crime is out of hand in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The recent rapid increase of homicides and the barbaric nature of these crimes have sent shock waves throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  The New Democratic Party is deeply concerned about this upsurge and dangerous trend in our society.

The following is a statement by the New Democratic Party: 

Vincentian society was shocked at the discovery of the decomposed body of a 17 year old woman in the community of Murray’s Village on the outskirts of Kingstown on Thursday 12 May 2022.

Then on Monday 16th May 2022, local police confirmed another shooting death in the New Montrose area. The victim brings to sixteen (16) the number of homicides in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) so far this year. This follows a four (4) day spate of four (4) murders. It does not go unnoticed that two (2) of the victims in this short period are women.

Should the current rate continue, St. Vincent and the Grenadines would equal its 2016 record-breaking murder count of forty (40) for the year. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) ranks 2016 in SVG as the 6th bloodiest in the world in the period 2012 to 2020.

A significant percentage of these homicides remain unsolved as the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force seems unequipped to come to grips with this crisis. This incompetence stands in stark contrast to the enthusiasm and vigour exercised in the pursuit and arrest of critics of the ULP administration and in preventing citizens from exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and association.

Of greater concern is the administration’s refusal to acknowledge the depth of this crisis since 2007. It is evident that as Minister of National Security Dr. Gonsalves has failed to be “tough on crime and the causes of crime.”

In twenty (20) years the minister and successive commissioners of police (the current Commissioner of Police Colin John being included) have failed to present to the nation a credible and comprehensive plan to deal with spiralling crime. It would appear that such a plan has not even been drafted. The time has come for the administration to engage real expertise

While we offer our sympathies to families directly affected by violent crime, we recognize that expressions ring hollow without action. The New Democratic Party renews our call for a bipartisan, broad-based approach to the development and implementation of strategies for combating crime.

We call on anyone with information that might assist the police in their investigations to contact the police immediately.

The NDP’s Plan

Stop the Causes of Crime

The New Democratic Party (NDP) strongly believes that to effectively combat crime; the emphasis should be placed on identifying the likely causes of crime and developing a strategy to remove them. 

We will implement the Spiritual Social and redemption charter as an important programme in crime prevention; commission a review of existing research into the causes of crime followed by research in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to determine which of these causes are applicable here. This will inform the strategies we introduce for combating crime. 

Also, vigorously pursue community policing by increasing the visibility of police on the beat, involving police in trust-building activities in communities, and by providing specific training in community policing. And, institute measures that will encourage regular meetings with the police and certain communities about the resolution and reduction of criminal conduct in those communities.

Our Plans for the Criminal Justice System

The NDP recognizes the importance of developing and maintaining an effective criminal justice system to convict, incarcerate and importantly rehabilitate convicted offenders. An effective and well-resourced criminal justice system enhances the chances of securing convictions against those who commit criminal offences. This system involves the police, the Director of Public Prosecutions, lawyers, the courts, magistrates, judges and the penal system.

It is therefore of paramount importance that those persons and institutions mentioned are appropriately equipped to deal with reported crimes in order to ensure that the guilty are convicted and the innocent are set free. But most importantly, they ensure the maintenance of law and order and the preservation of the rights and freedoms of Vincentians. The NDP takes the maintenance of those rights and freedoms very seriously, and will introduce measures that will strengthen the criminal justice system. 

This will be effected by:

    • conducting a comprehensive review of the laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines;
    • introducing measures that will simplify and improve access to justice;
    • increasing the number of magistrates;
    • revising the laws to increase the sentencing options that are available to magistrates and judges;
    • expanding the High Court and improving its facilities;
    • upgrading the forensic lab in order to expedite the prosecution of offences and to reduce the number of cases that are outstanding;
    • reviewing the remuneration and method of promotion of police officers in order to ensure that promotion and remuneration are primarily based on merit, and
    • reviewing the Police Legislation to bring it up to date with the requirements for modern policing.

Furthermore, we will:

    • arrange for extensive training of police and prison officers, especially in the field of information technology;
    • establishing a Civilian Police Complaint Commission to receive complaints against police officers from both civilians and fellow police officers;
    • establish a Young Persons Rehabilitation Centre for non-violent young first time offenders and for juvenile delinquents;
    • introduce a rigorous rehabilitation programme that will be designed to improve the lives of inmates after they have left the prisons and reduce the chances of them becoming repeat offenders;
    • review the remuneration of prison officers and the promotion system to ensure that their career growth is dependent on performance and achievement;
    • identify communities in which new police stations will be constructed. And,
    • reintroducing the Police Cadet Service to provide young persons with an avenue into the Police Force. 

The NDP is committed to fighting crime. 

 

Celebration of International Women’s Day 2022

Release from the NDP Women’s President in Celebration of International Women’s Day 2022

It is indeed an honour to join with women around the world to celebrate International Women’s Day 2022. The theme, “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” #BreakTheBias, is most fitting given the global impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on everyone, particularly women. It is also timely as our world is currently facing many challenges including climate change, high rates of unemployment, inequity, armed conflicts, and the erosion of women’s rights. Indeed, many more of our women are struggling to survive having lost their sources of subsistence.

Gender equality is a critical human right. All humans, regardless of gender, are equal in the sight of God. Why then, should we treat each other differently? Women and men must enjoy the same benefits based on their roles in society. This can yield many positives including the promotion of respect for basic rights and social justice for all. Furthermore, the eradication of job discrimination and closing gender gaps in employment can maximize the use of talents and skills from a larger pool of more diverse and innovative ideas.

It is true that in the past women may have shied away from such fields as politics, private sector leadership, science, medicine, law, technology, engineering, and mathematics. However, today’s women have made tremendous strides in these areas. They have proven themselves as equally intelligent, functional, innovative, and competent co-workers alongside their male counterparts. Nevertheless, despite these gains, research shows that political representation by women in parliaments around the world stands at less than 25%. This must change.

Research has also shown that bias contributes to women’s sufferings as they are often bypassed for jobs and promotions. Three out of four women experience bias at the workplace. Black women, especially those who are physically challenged, are at an even greater disadvantage. Unfortunately, some of our men continue to sit in silence when women speak out and make valuable contributions on issues like gender inequality. We need men to help us change the negative mindsets that enable physical abuse, sexual harassment, and facilitate other unfair practices perpetrated against our women.

The world is rapidly changing and expects diversity, equity, and inclusion. Therefore, women must ensure that they equip themselves with the necessary knowledge and skills to confront these challenges. Government also has a role to play in helping to promote gender equality among the people. Appropriate laws must be passed and implemented to facilitate gender equality and empowerment. National plans and policies must pave the way for all to participate in national development. Collectively, everyone everywhere can strive to achieve “gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.”

Government asleep at the wheel while dengue runs rampant

Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 20 September 2020: The New Democratic Party has called on the ULP Government urgently act to control Dengue Fever. Cases have increased dramatically over the past two months, while two children have tragically lost their lives.

NDP Spokesman on Health and Member for West Kingstown, the Honourable Daniel Cummings MP called on the ULP Government to act now to control what is a growing national medical emergency.

“The ULP and Minister Luke Browne are asleep at the wheel while dengue cases skyrocket, almost doubling from July to August,” he said.

“We have lost too many to this virus, including the tragic death of two young children. The entire NDP express our condolences to their families at this difficult time.

“Dengue is a preventable disease by controlling the mosquitos that spread it. But the ULP is mismanaging the fogging program. It must be done regularly, at specific times to disrupt the mosquito breeding cycle, and the community needs to be kept informed.

“While thousands of Vincentians are unemployed and struggling financially, Luke Browne is also charging families for dengue testing and has not released updated statistics in nearly a month.

“It shows the ULP have become complacent after 19 years in office and have neglected the basics while they are busy campaigning.”

“Dengue is a medical emergency that must be acted on now. I say to Luke Browne: wake up and do your job before it is too late!”

NDP Representative for Central Leeward, Ben Exeter expressed condolences on behalf of the nation to the family of Jeremiah Charles who died as a result of dengue.

“Jeremiah’s family is in my prayers and those of NDP and the nation. All of Barrouallie will mourn with his family at this devastating moment.” Mr. Exeter said.

“No parent should have to face this alone, and the community with come together to support them at this heart-breaking time.”

Symptoms of dengue usually commence four to 10 days after infection and include high fever, headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pains, and a skin rash.

Persistent fever, abdominal pain or tenderness, and vomiting, or bleeding are signs of a possible severe case and people should visit a doctor immediately.

The NDP urges people to clear any areas to prevent standing water where mosquitos can breed. This includes cover rainwater storage tanks, rid yards of debris such as tyres, cover trash containers, and empty any standing water into gutters away from the house.

END

Statement: Union Island Gas Station Explosion

Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines: We in the New Democratic Party (NDP) are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of the three burn victims in the Union Island gas station fire.

The fire occurred at the gas station in Clifton, Union Island on Tuesday evening May 19, 2020. The owner of the gas station 72-year old Freddy Naert, and teenagers 14-year old Lindani Neverson and 17-year old Gra-niqua Azaria Alexander, were seriously injured in the fire and were transported to Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in Kingstown for emergency medical treatment. Last Sunday, May 24th, both Freddy Naert and Lindani Neverson died at MCMH. Later that day, Azaria Alexander was flown to Trinidad for further treatment. Last evening, Wednesday May 27th, she too succumbed to her injuries.

Our deepest condolences go out to the families of the victims. This tragedy is a hard blow for the family members. They need our prayers and support in this extremely difficult time. We mourn with them. No doubt, their community of Union Island and the entire nation share their loss. The Honourable Terrance Ollivierre, Member for Southern Grenadines, who has been in regular and close contact with the families of the teenaged victims, commented:

“I am truly at a loss for words. My heart hurts for all the families. This is such a tragedy and I know that all the people of Union Island are hurting right now. We must pray for everyone”.

President of the NDP, Dr. Hon. Godwin Friday stated:

“I am heartbroken! I pray for the families and for the community. They need our love and support.”

The NDP urges that there be a full investigation into the cause of the fire, the efforts to combat it, and of the transportation and treatment of the burn victims. As Dr. Friday has stated:

“We need to find answers and to learn from this tragedy. A full investigation is a necessary part of that process.”

 

Call us: +1 (784) 456-2114,
Email us: info@ndpsvg.com

Visit us: Murray’s Road, Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Postal address: Kingstown , P.O Box 1300 , St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

© 2020, New Democratic Party, St. Vincent
Public Relations Officer Lavern King