Stating that they are fed up with what they characterized as gross mismanagement of the Vincentian economy and rampant corruption by the incumbent Unity Labor Party (ULP) administration of Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves, three members of parliament and a former government minister of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines Saturday night urged the electorate to vote the government out of office when the next general elections are called.
Using what became their mantra at a three-hour-plus-long town hall meeting, at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn, the opposition figures – Members of Parliament for West Kingstown, South Leeward and North Leeward, Daniel Cummings, Nigel “Nature” Stephenson and Roland “Patel” Matthews, respectively, and former Grenadines representative Glenford Stewart, told the audience: “Don’t get vex (angry), vote.
“Go out and vote, and get them out of office,” said former Communications and Works Minister Stewart, a civil engineer by profession, in leading the charge. “We couldn’t find an unbiased judge to hear our petitions. You vex, tell your relatives to vote.
“You happy that the Argyle International Airport is opened, and you still vex,” he added at the town hall meeting, hosted by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Progressive Organization of New York (SPOONY), the New York arm of the NDP, which was streamed live on the Internet and broadcast live on local radio.
“You have to be vexed, because they (the government) can’t give you an account (of the airport’s finances,” Stewart continued.
He accused the Gonsalves’s government of “draining” the accounts of the former National Commercial Bank and is “waiting for NIS (National Insurance Services) to bust.”
He said that the Vincentian government should not be engaged in the construction of hotels in the country, stating that the private sector is doing so in other Caribbean islands.
In addition, Stewart said the government has failed to deliver on its election promise, 18 years ago, for construction of a cross country road and a national stadium on mainland St. Vincent, and is now contemplating building a tunnel from Arnos Vale to Cane Garden to ease congestion to capital Kingstown.
“Those engineers coming from Canada already consulting me,” he disclosed. “It’s a nonsense venture. They can’t event fix pot holes, and you say you’re going to build tunnel.”
Stewart said the administration has also failed to deliver on construction of a jetty in the southern Grenadine island of Canouan and is yet to repair damage done by a rain storm 5 ½ years ago to the jetty at the port in Chateaubelair, a town on the north western shore of the mainland.
Additionally, he said the populace is burdened with increased taxes annually.
Stephenson said “St. Vincent and the Grenadines is characterized by neglect.
“This is a time for change in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” said the Shadow Minister for Youth, Sports, Community Development, Culture and Local Government. “St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as you know it, has changed for the worst.
“The government again has been playing sport with sports,” he added, lamenting the government’s election promise to construct a national stadium.
Cummings said it was “very painful when you see the level of theft in the (last) elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” stating that the electorate was deeply concerned that their votes would be counted in the next general elections.
“But I bring hope to you,” he said. “When the bell is rung the next time, they (government is) gone (voted out of office).”
He said the NDP will construct a new state-of-the-art hospital “in the right place,” stating that the current Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH) in capital Kingstown is in the “wrong location.”
Cummings charged that the MCMH is mismanaged.
“It’s painful and obvious that no one is accountable and responsible for everyone,” he said. “What the New Democratic Party is offering is an area of health that is comprehensive and real.”
Matthews said the team’s mission to New York was to inform the audience that “things in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are not as rosy (as they seem).
“Too many wrong things are going on,” said the Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries. “Make St. Vincent and the Grenadines better. The NDP stands with you to make St. Vincent and the Grenadines better.
“We realize that spite, vindictiveness, victimization will not move our country forward,” he added. “We should be the ones to calm the arguments.”
Matthews said, while farmers have been the “bedrock” in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, they “have not been doing well.”
He said the agricultural sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen from 19 percent to six percent, claiming that, since the government has been in office, it has failed to conduct a census in agriculture.
“The NDP, first thing, will conduct an agricultural census to assess the state of agriculture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.
“We in the New Democratic Party have been tried and tested,” Matthews added. “We want your help to help us shine through.”