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PM: Put aside differences

PM: Put aside differences

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by Trevor Yearwood

After a hard-fought general election, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has appealed to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to put aside their differences and work together for the good of the nation.

“… I wish to make a personal appeal to all Vincentians, of whatever political colour, to bury their differences, put the past behind us and place our shoulder to the plough,” he said in a televised address hours after his party was announced as winner of the election last Wednesday.{{more}}

He called on his political opponents to end what he described as “verbal guerrilla tactics”.

He said it could not be regarded as reasonable, fair or just for the opposition to keep making baseless charges against a democratically elected government.

He did not expect the opposition to stop criticism of the government, but urged, “Show some responsibility.”

He charged: “They have no respect for anybody in authority. They attack the Governor General.”

He said the electorate was sending different messages to ULP candidates.

“They want this government to govern,” he said. “At the same time, they have said to some of our candidates … some of you guys need to pay a little closer attention to us. Don’t disconnect as much as you have disconnected over the past five years.”

He said the country needed the cooperation and support of all Vincentians and allies in the period ahead.

Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party won 12 of the 15 seats at stake in Wednesday’s election, with the others going to the New Democratic Party (NDP) of Arnhim Eustace.

Gonsalves said the victory represented an overwhelming vote of confidence in the policies of the ULP.

“…By returning the Unity Labour Party to office with such an overwhelming mandate, you have energised us to proceed with haste to complete the process of economic, educational, social and cultural upliftment which we started in 2001,” Gonsalves told the nation.

“We shall use the new manifesto as our guide during the next five years in office.”

He said that the party would press ahead with 77 physical projects, among them construction of a new airport, a cross-country road, a national stadium and redevelopment of the Arnos Vale cricket facility.

The party would also move ahead with 40 non-physical projects, including waging war on poverty; its education revolution; a battle against HIV/AIDS; and creating more jobs.

The completion of this agenda “will require the cooperation and support of all Vincentians and allies in all walks of life,” Gonsalves said.

Constitutional reform is part of the agenda of the new government. “We’re hoping to go for a referendum sometime after May, 2007,” Gonsalves reported.

On the issue of debt, Gonsalves said that the only country in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States with a slightly lower debt to GDP ratio is St. Lucia.

But the rate of increase of the debt in St. Lucia or the debt to GDP ratio is much faster than ours, he noted.

He said the opposition had left EC$640 million in debt and of that EC$150 plus million was for the controversial Ottley Hall shipyard project.

He calculated that debt had increased from $640 million to just under $900 million.

However, the government had not “missed a single payment” on any debt, he pointed out.

Gonsalves presented a case for accountable government: “It is essential that every leader consider himself accountable to the people,” he said.

“Too long have leaders in St. Vincent and the Grenadines ignored this right and treated the people they serve with disdain, if not contempt,” he added.

“… As long as I hold office in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, my colleagues and I will consider ourselves accountable to the people of this nation.”

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