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NDP and Farmers Consult on the Agriculture Industry

The Chapmans Community Centre came alive last night Thursday Feb 27, 2014 as a packed hall of farmers from across the breadbasket constituencies in St. Vincent and the Grenadines were treated to detailed proposals and ideas on agriculture and how the industry could be revitalized from the New Democratic Party. The audience of farmers who have seen their fortunes reduced over the past thirteen years heard from the Leader of the Opposition Hon. Arnhim Eustace himself a farmer, on how to revitalize the banana industry. He presented a detailed proposal and asked the farmers for their thoughts on the plan which would see the farmers receive subsidy on inputs and income support while they re-invested in banana production. According to Eustace this would see the industry rebound to exports of 40-50 million.

Farmers then heard from NDP’s Shadow Minister on Agriculture MP for North Leeward Hon. Roland “Patel” Matthews who said there is a magnificent opportunity to return the agriculture industry to being one of the major contributors to our nation’s macro economy. Matthews stressed modernization, and the use of technology and encouraging our youth to see agriculture as a viable business, where markets for new commodities can be found, using the infrastructure we already own in the UK to provide new produce to the supermarkets with whom we already do business.

Candidate for North Windward Lauron “Sheara” Baptiste using a PowerPoint presentation echoed the sentiments shared by the other presenters and showed how the North Windward constituency and other farming constituencies could benefit from a vibrant industry. His presentation which culminated with a slide showing people moving towards a safe haven in the NDP was warmly received by all. Candidate for Central Leeward Ben Exeter was on hand, with farmers from his constituency also in attendance; likewise, NDP’s Candidate for Marriaqua Curtis Bowman and South Windward’s Candidate Noel Dickson.

The farmers, in the open forum, took the opportunity to outline the challenges they are facing, and how the state of the economy was making it virtually impossible for them to sustain their livelihood. They continue despair over the situation, and they endorsed the plan to revitalize the banana industry. Many saw the event as a call to arms for farmers to do all in their power to ensure that the NDP gets the opportunity to lead the nation and their industry back to a position of prominence and strength. The NDP will continue its outreach to communities in the weeks and months to come. The Consultation was carried live on Nice Radio and chaired by NDP’s candidate for North Central Windward Kenroy Johnson.

New Democratic Party Press Conference

Good Morning members of the media, and persons listening to Nice Radio locally and internationally, I have called this press conference to address a number of issues which are important to the people of St.  Vincent and the Grenadines and our Vincentians living abroad as well. This morning I wish speak on a number of matters of critical importance to the image and standing of our nation.

OUR CONSULATES AND MISSIONS ABROAD

The circumstances surrounding the recent removal of Edson Augustus from the Vincentian Consulate   in   New   York   have   prompted   all   Vincentians   to   question   the   conduct, performance and suitability of those appointed by government to represent us at our consulates and missions abroad.

This government continues with its flawed foreign policy to alienate our traditional allies and to have scant regard for the people of our nation, and our need to be properly advised of what happened with this matter. I made the call for information regarding the recall of the former Deputy Consul General to be shared with the public. I did this on February 10th, on Nice Radio and while I still on air, the Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a press release to say that Augustus was recalled since February 5th. Today we know that on February 7th, his salary was stopped. Why wait on the Opposition to agitate, in order to come clean with the state of affairs? Were Vincentians to be ignored?

The former UN Ambassador’s brush with authorities in New York prompted the Prime Minister to find me when I was having dinner at a restaurant after nine in the night, to inform me of what was going on and to seek our support, for his battery of lawyers to go to the aid of his son, our Current Foreign Affairs Minister. In this scenario, it is the Opposition whose calls for information, and for the removal of Augustus’ diplomatic status, prompted the Government to speak with any clarity on this issue. To date there has been no firm statement to repair our Foreign Affairs image in the eyes of our US and other allies. Add to this other incidents like, the unforgettable refusal of this government to distance itself from anti US statements uttered by Hugo Chavez on Vincentian soil, and let us not forget the condemnation of Vincentian passports and consequent imposition of Visa restrictions on Vincentians travelling to Canada. These matters, added to this latest issue, with Edson Augustus’  apparent  involvement in a green card scam, all point  to the  urgent need to review not only our foreign policy but especially what is taking place within our missions. As yet, we do not know all the matters in which Augustus was involved. We have questions about how our assets are being used abroad. What is a Vincentian diplomatic vehicle doing regularly  at  the  Stony  Brook  Medical  School?  What  is  the  relationship  between  the

Consulate and the Premier Ford/Lincoln Car Dealership located at 5001 Glenwood Road

Brooklyn New York? These are questions which must be answered.

RELIEF EFFORTS AND DUTY FREE CONCESSION

Attached to this release is a letter with attachments, which I have sent to institutions and governments referring to the flood relief efforts here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. All indications are that relief supplies sent to the opposition NDP for distribution to persons affected, will be subject to import duty VAT and the Customs Service Charge. We regard this as unfair, discriminatory and punishment for those persons who are in dire need of these relief items.

The NDP expects in the next week to receive approximately 45 barrels and cartons of relief mainly from the Canadian Diaspora.

THE ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES ECONOMY

The economy continues to be a major source of worry to the people of this country. Things are getting worse. With little or negative economic growth for the past five years, there is nothing to be proud about given our economic performance. I expect that in 2014 that we will continue to have high current deficits. That is we will continue to spend more than we earn from taxes. That deficit will be in excess of 140 million dollars. Given the significant duty free imports of lumber, galvanize, food, clothing and other items, related to the relief effort, we expect a decline in government revenue. We expect the businesses which are normally involved in the sale of such items, to have a significant decline in their profit margins this year, because of lower sales. This will lead to a decline in receipts of company taxes. This situation will be made worse by the fact that the government continues to owe the private sector millions of dollars. This will lead to higher overdrafts, to cover increased expenditure on the part of the private sector, and again, this will result in less profits being realized. I expect a slight improvement in the construction sector because of repairs to roads and buildings associated with the flooding.

We must look at this situation against a backdrop of increased NIS contributions being required of employers and employees, including the government, this year.

Banana exports are expected to be very low and therefore, our balance of trade in relation to goods will decline further when compared with our imports. With respect to financing our projects, this year, the leeward highway will be delayed; the international airport will not be completed, and according to the estimates provided by the government the government indicates that having borrowed 212 million dollars for the airport, in the latter half of 2013, only 97 million will be spent on the airport in 2014. The airport therefore will not be completed in 2014.

In addition to this, in the history of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the government has NEVER spent over 160 million dollars on its capital budget, and if you examine all of the projects to be disbursed on in 2014 including projects related to flood repair, our disbursements on expenditure of projects amounts to approximately 300 million dollars. Government simply does not have the implementation capacity to make this level of disbursements. 300 million dollars will not be spent. There is little hope for increased permanent jobs.

DAVID AMES, CAROL AMES AND MATTHEW AMES

We all know that the Harlequin Development Buccament Bay has been a troubled project. We know that lawsuits have been filed against the company and against its principals in the United Kingdom and locally. Today I can tell you that a UK based Law Firm Carter Lemon Camerons LLP represents 23 UK claimants and one US claimant in a group action against David Ames and Carol Ames proceeding in the High Court in London.  The claimants are all investors in various Harlequin developments at Buccama here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and elsewhere in the Caribbean. David Ames we remember is the sole director of Harlequin Developments and was granted Vincentian Citizenship by the Prime Minister. Carol Ames is his wife and Matthew Ames is their son.

The UK and US claimants allege that Mr. and Mrs Ames are responsible for a number of false statements that were made in order to persuade investors to purchase off plan properties at Buccament and elsewhere.  One of the allegations is that Mr. and Mrs Ames claimed there was bank finance behind the project when there was not.

Another allegation is that Mr. and Mrs Ames falsely claimed that their investors would all be offered guaranteed mortgage finance on completion.   It is also alleged that Mr. and Mrs Ames represented that they owned the land on which they were selling properties when this was not always the case.  A further allegation is that the Harlequin scheme was sold in breach of the UK law on promotion of investments set out in the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

Mr. and Mrs Ames deny all the allegations and are defending the claim. The claim brought on behalf of these twenty four people is against Mr. and Mrs Ames in person. Mr. and Mrs Ames assets are frozen to a value of £2.5m pending the outcome of this matter.

Their son, Matthew Ames who I am told was previously employed as a manager at Buccament Bay was convicted on multiple counts of fraud in Isleworth Crown Court in London last week. The frauds totaling around £1.6m, related to various phony “green” investment opportunities and were not related to the Harlequin companies.  We have been informed that Matthew Ames has been remanded in custody.   We understand he was initially held at H.M. Wormwood Scrubs prison in London.

We continue to watch the Harlequin Development at Buccament with much concern.

ST KITTS NEVIS IMPASSE

The Heads of Government of Caricom will meet in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on the

10th-11th  March, 2014 under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Gonsalves. Throughout this region, we are all aware that the Opposition in St. Kitts and Nevis, which has the majority of elected members in Parliament, has for more than a  year been attempting without success, to have a no confidence motion debated in that parliament. In the last few days, the Opposition in that country has attempted to present to the Governor General, a letter showing the support of six, that is, a majority of the elected members are now throwing their support behind Dr Timothy Harris a member of the Opposition.

I am informed that the letter was not accepted by the Governor General. This blatant disregard of the constitution and rules of Parliament is totally unacceptable and sends a dangerous signal to this region, which undermines our democracy as a Caribbean Community.

What I find most disheartening, is the deafening silence of the other Caricom governments who appear to wish that this situation in St. Kitts did not exist. The Caricom Chairman Prime  Minster  Gonsalves  and  his  colleagues  should  hang  their  heads  in  shame  for condoning this unacceptable state of affairs.  Caricom ignores the situation in St. Kitts but makes a firm statement in support of Maduro in Venezuela indicating “that no democratic society can  reasonably pursue  disorder or  any  unwanted  subversion of  democratic
inst it ut ions.”   Is this not what is taking place in St. Kitts? What hypocrisy!

Here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as Leader of the Opposition, as I reflected on the ceremony commemorating Caricom’s 40th Anniversary, and the wonderful speeches delivered, I wondered what the silence on the St. Kitts situation means for the future of our integration movement.

Like Keats, “my heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains my sense, as though of hemlock I

had drunk.”

AWAKE! Heads of Government, our region is dying because of your inaction.

“IS VINLEC THE BIGGER PRIZE?”

This was the question on the lips of every person listening to the Hon. Arnhim Eustace as he delivered the President’s address at the NDP convention last Sunday. Eustace, speaking to the party faithful, took a look at the state of the economy, productive sectors including tourism and agriculture, and made his first real substantive comment on geothermal energy. Eustace made it clear that the NDP supports the exploration of our country for geothermal energy.

Calling Gonsalves a follower, not a leader on energy, he outlined that what Gonsalves is attempting to do today, in seeking to explore the geothermal resource capacity of this country was done by Dominica’s government as they explored Dominica’s core starting in 2007/08 and set up that nation’s geothermal project. Dominica explored, drilled and proved the existence and extent of their geothermal asset, spending in the process $32M financed by EU grant funds and taxpayer’s money. Gonsalves at the same time in 2007 had entered an agreement with someone called Croghan who has since disappeared. Eustace called him a “fly by night”.

Eustace was highly critical, expressing grave concerns over Gonsalves’ agreement with private companies EMERA out of Canada and Reykjavik Geothermal out of Iceland which will see those companies risking their own finances to explore what should be a resource owned by the government and people of St. Vincent, as it is in Dominica. Citing Gonsalves’ own words “Now, no one seriously believes that EMERA will come to St. Vincent to put in the facilities to generate only 10 megawatts of power. They have their eye on a larger prize’, Eustace outlined that where private investors take all the risk, they must want a return on their investment. He wondered, with millions being spent, and not by government, whether the government would have to sell VINLEC in much the same way as they sold the NCB in order to pay back the private investors for the monies they would have to spend up front. The NDP leader pointed out the EMERA owns Barbados Light and Power Electricity Company.

Eustace asked the audience, “What is EMERA going to get for spending all the money and taking all the risk up front? What is this “larger prize” that Gonsalves is talking about?

Do not underestimate that question. What is the larger prize that EMERA has their eyes on? And why should Ralph Gonsalves, the Prime Minister of a sovereign state, be interested in the larger prize to be acquired by a private company?” The question must be will VINLEC be sold to EMERA? Is this part of an agreement already brokered and signed?

Dominica’s long term geothermal project should see them able to export energy to Guadeloupe and Martinique by undersea cables.

Their project is totally government owned.

NDP CONVENTION 2013- “ WE READY!”

With a theme declaring its readiness to take over governance in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an energized and upbeat New Democratic Party convened at its headquarters in Kingstown to renew its Executive, and speak to the state of the nation, and the solutions required to move this country and its people forward. The convention started with the procession of all candidates for the next general election, which some speculate can come as early as the first quarter of next year.

The day-long event, which boasted attendance by delegates and Young Democrats from every constituency in the country, was carried live online and recorded by media who were treated to intense and well received presentations by party President the Hon Arnhim Eustace and Feature Speaker Luzette King, who travelled from the Diaspora to be a part of this annual event. Ms King’s presentation captivated the crowd who listened in rapt attention, jumping to their feat in spontaneous outbursts of applause throughout the presentation.
Greetings and addresses came from NDP chapters in Toronto and the US with the General Secretary and Chairman of the party Allan Cruickshank and Dr. Hon Linton Lewis, sharing emcee duties
throughout the day.

All Executive positions were open during the business session of the Convention and Party President Hon. Arnhim Eustace along with Vice Presidents Dr. Hon. Godwin Friday, Hon. St. Clair Leacock, Treasurer Bernard Mills and Deputy General Secretary Doris McIntosh were returned unopposed. The position of PRO was relinquished by Ernesto Cooke who decided not to seek re- election, focusing instead on his role as Host of the popular New Times Programme. Sen. Hon. Vynnette Frederick, who previously held the post between 2006- 2012 was nominated and elected unopposed. The contested position for Chairman of the Party resulted in a tie of 135 votes each for incumbent Dr Hon. Senator Linton Lewis and Hon Daniel Cummings. To settle the deadlock Daniel Cummings conceded the position as he considered the tie to mean that he did not “beat” his colleague. This decision was met with wide applause for Cummings and the internal electoral process. The party will host a Christmas event and its parliamentary caucus prepare for the Budget Estimate Debates scheduled to begin on December 9, 2013.

Deputy Consul-General fired because of passport related issues — source

The information came from a well-placed source who, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested that the former diplomat could be subjected to an extensive investigation that could involve agencies outside of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kingstown announced on Monday that Augustus has been officially recalled from his post.

The Ministry said in a brief, four-paragraph statement that it received, last Wednesday, reports suggesting that Augustus, while posted to New York, was “involved in activities outside the scope of his employment and inimical to the interest of the Consulate General and the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Having subsequently received sufficient confirmation of those reports, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines acted promptly in recalling Mr. Augustus with immediate effect,” the release said.

The release did not detail the nature or extent of the former diplomat’s activities outside of the scope of his employment.

“All matters touching and concerning the said activities are under further review,” the Ministry, however, said.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, told I-Witness News late Monday evening that he did not want to comment “on the specifics of the issues” surrounding the recall of the diplomat.

He said he did not know if Augustus had returned to St. Vincent, but added, “The fact that he is recalled means that he can’t go at the office (Consulate)”.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace has called for more heads to roll at the consulate.

Eustace on Monday also called on the Gonsalves government to detail to the nation why Augustus was fired.

“Other heads have to roll for this. Other people must have known what was going on, and I am sure that the United States knows what was going on and we have to bear that in mind.

“We can’t have no tightening of restrictions now on Vincentians trying to travel to the United States. We already have it with Canada, [do] we want to have it with the United States?” he said on his weekly radio programme.

Speaking on his weekly radio programme hours after the Ministry’s statement, Eustace said the statement by the Government doesn’t give “the detail that is required to explain to persons why this matter is so important.

“… this kind of diplomatic letter is good to send to an embassy or a government, not to send to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“People need more information than this, otherwise, the information would be given otherwise, you know. Am letting them know that now. … I already have certain information; I didn’t say it this morning… Come clean, say who all were involved other than him, and let’s deal with the matter here in our country,” Eustace further said, adding, “I expect that there would be a further communication shortly”.

But Eustace said that his own information is that what Augustus is accused of doing “would make things more difficult for Vincentians going to the United States, especially when an embassy official at that level gets involved in activities not consistent with his duties…

“… coming now only a few months after Canada has removed the right of Vincentians to travel freely without visas, it speaks to something smelly in our foreign offices,” he said.

Ottawa, in late 2012, imposed visa requirements for Vincentians and several other nationalities travelling to Canada.

“This is a very serious matter and the government has to become even clearer and say what it is that Mr. Augustus has done. … If they don’t, somebody else will do it…

“It is not in our best interest and can in fact, and, I believe, will, be harmful to the interest of people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and those who wish to go to the United States.

“It is an extremely serious matter and therefore one must be more careful with who we push to go into such posts. Our image as a nation is also a function of how people in that kind of position operate in the country to which they are assigned.

“And because of what I know, I am ashamed of what has happened, and embarrassed that the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines should find themselves in that position today. It is a disgrace to our interest, and I am taking interest not only in the sense of the Government of the United States but in the people’s perception of us as a people, not only here, but outside of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Eustace said.

“We cannot continue to operate on this basis in this country. We must be clear [about] exactly what we are doing and who we assign to carry out certain duties. … That is the situation and you will be hearing more in the next few hours.”

Source: http://www.iwnsvg.com/2014/02/11/deputy-consul-general-fired-because-of-passport-related-issues-source/

Eustace takes off the gloves at NDP public meeting

In an unusual move, for the Leader of the New Democratic Party, Hon. Arnhim Eustace took off the gloves slamming critics calling for leadership change within the NDP when he addressed the NDP’s public meeting at Mamas Corner in West St. George last Saturday. In a biting, and explosive presentation, Eustace explained that he will not tolerate corruption, questioning the motives of some of those who have publicly been critical of his leadership style within the New Democratic Party. Eustace went into some detail about one critic’s conduct as a functionary in charge of a statutory body, where he purported to hire a company with which he was connected, and paid them money from the statutory body to carry out work. Eustace remembers the figure as being some sixteen thousand dollars.

“I told him to bring it back tomorrow…or leave.”

The party president explained that he made the process for selecting the leader of the New Democartic party more democratic, increasing the base that elects the leader to include not only parliamentarians but convention delegates. He also reduced the number of years which a leader could serve, before having to seek re-election, reducing it from five years to three.
Eustace was upbeat about the NDP’s chances of winning the next general election, and made no bones about what he sees as the priorities for the incoming government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Jobs, Agriculture, Healthcare, lower utility costs, and an improved economy must be top of the list of issues which an NDP led administration would tackle.
The NDP’S Public Meeting Campaign took to Barrouallie some weeks ago where Ben Exeter, the Party’s new Candidate for the Central Leeward constituency made his debut on an NDP
Platform.

Vincyclassroom.com

The President of the NDP the Hon. Arnhim Eustace along with the Shadow Minister for Agriculture Hon. Roland “Patel” Matthews and NDP Candidate for North Windward Lauron “Sheara” Baptiste took their message of hope and redemption for the Agriculture Industry to the North Leeward constituency and Community of Fitz Hughes on Thursday evening.

In a presentation and question segment over three hours, the three speakers reiterated the NDP position that Agriculture is central to the nation’s economic recovery. Eustace detailed how income support, which he described as a “salary for banana farmers over six months,” would enable the farmers to focus their efforts on the recovery of their fields while being sure that their commitments to family and home could be met.

The Opposition Leader gave some background on his work in securing the purchase of The Banana business and the 50% share we have in the joint venture with Fyffes in the UK. He emphasized the merger between Fyffes and Chiquita as presenting great opportunities for our farmers to benefit and condemned the government for not exploring to discover and ultimately exploit these opportunities to the benefit of the farmers. Eustace described his effort to negotiate the joint venture which saw him sit as Chairman of the Board of WIBDECO, as one of the most important contributions he has made to the region and the industry. Shadow Minister Matthews focused his presentation on the opportunities that exist in Fishing as well as farming in the community and nationally, and blamed this government for neglect of the farmers and the industry in North Leeward and island wide.

Mr. Baptiste endorsed the views of the other presenters before him and ended the night with a power point presentation which encouraged the listening audience to support the NDP in its bid to lead the nation and pilot the recovery of a “critical and important agriculture and fishing industry.” This was the second of three NDP planned consultations which will target farmers nationally across the agriculture belt of the country.

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

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Public Relations Officer Lavern King