With Vincentians anxiously awaiting the date for the next general elections, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves has reiterated his readiness to ring the proverbial “bell.”
Gonsalves told a town hall meeting in Brooklyn that the incumbent Unity Labor Party (ULP) is putting everything place to ensure the party retains power for a fourth consecutive term. General elections are constitutionally due in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in early 2016.
The Vincentian leader said two of his party’s younger candidates and Ministers of Government – Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar and Foreign Affairs Minister Camillo Gonsalves – will be going this weekend to their respective constituencies “to secure their nomination/their recommendation to the central executive.
“I wish both of those young men well, they’re two good young men,” Gonsalves said. “And, by the end of the year, we should have all our candidates in place.
“But depends on what they (the main Opposition New Democratic Party – NDP ) say, from what I’ve said here – and they provoke me – I may get all the candidates selected quickly and move faster than they expect me to move, because I am ready to ring de bell,” he added.
Gonsalves stressed that, based on the nation’s Constitution, he is the only one who can officially announce the date of the next general elections, recalling a conversation he had earlier this year, during VincyMas at Victoria Park in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital, with a NDP supporter in the presence of Opposition Leader and NDP leader, Arnhim Eustace.
“So one his (Eustace) supporters was next to him say, ‘Ralph yo come to hear Patches say ring de bell,’” recalled Gonsalves, speaking colloquially, referring to the calypsonian. “I said, ‘listen to me, Eustace and Patches are into entertainment’.
“I said, ‘there’s only one man can ring de bell – is I-man’(loud laughter),” he added. “He said, ‘what you say about Julian (Francis, ULP general secretary) then, because Julian had gone to the tent with a bell?’
“I said, ‘Julian, too, is involved in entertainment’,” the prime minister continued. “I tell you, I’m the only man can ring the bell (loud laughter)…You ever hear a song could be a (political) strategy? Can you imagine you can base a political strategy on a calypso?
“They (NDP) go up and down the country (saying), ‘ring de bell comrade, ring de bell’. They had rallies, they had it day in, day out. They (are) trying to make Patches’ song into a road march, which it can’t be. … From where I am in the Financial Complex, I can see them coming down. But I said, ‘da band dey smaller than Melbourne mas band’. Ah say, they (are) playing mas in July, late July. They (observers) say, ‘no, it’s de ring de bell march’,” said Gonsalves, as the packed crowd rolled with laughter.
“The fellas (NDP) came to town to ring de bell and, when they ring de bell, when they look for de bell – and you can write this (looking at this correspondent seated in the front row of the hall) – the bell tongue drop out, (more loud laughter). And that’s the end of ‘ring de bell’ yo’ know. The bell tongue come (came) out. Anybody could take dem man day seriously?” asked the prime minister rhetorically in local parlance.
Former NDP South Windward candidate Stephen “Scombo” John, who was, among a few NDP supporters, seated near the back of the hall, did not ask any question during the question-and-answer segment, but later told Caribbean Life that Gonsalves’ “entertainment speech” masked the real, serious issues confronting nationals.
“We (NDP) are working harder and wiser,” said the president of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Progressive Organization of New York (SPOONY), the NDP New York arm. “The business of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is serious.
“Last night was entertainment, which I thoroughly enjoyed,” added John, a public school principal in Brooklyn, noting that the NDP won seven of the 15 seats in Parliament in the last general elections almost five years ago. “Even the airport (prime minister’s reference to completion of the Argygle International Airport next year) was a joke…very sarcastic to entertain some and stifle ideas from others.”