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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.

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