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Ben Exeter says he is not daunted by Straker’s return

Ben Exeter says he is not daunted by Straker’s return


The man slated to contest the Central Leeward seat on an opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) ticket says he is not daunted by the reintroduction of veteran politician Sir Louis Straker as his opponent in the next general elections.

Benjamin Exeter, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT yesterday, {{more}}opined that the choice of Straker at the constituency council meeting of the governing Unity Labour Party (ULP) last Sunday, speaks very loudly to the dissatisfaction of the people in Central Leeward, over the years.

The NDP candidate said if people want things to remain the same, they will vote for the incumbent party. However, if they want change, that is what they will vote for.

“The will of the people will determine the outcome of this contest in Central Leeward,” Exeter said.

“It doesn’t really matter who they bring; my focus and my game is still the same; it’s to work hard. Louis Straker, he’s a veteran, but Louis Straker or Maxwell Charles would be in the incumbent seat and … as a candidate coming in, it doesn’t really matter who they bring, I’ll just have to fight as hard.”

Exeter said he has already been meeting with his constituents and listening to their grievances. And according to the NDP candidate, he has been receiving a lot of support from the people of Central Leeward.

“This race is not about me or Maxwell Charles or Louis Straker; it’s about the people of Central Leeward who have been neglected for a very, very long time.

“The cries are the same from everybody, regardless of the party affiliation; [it] is that things are very difficult for them. They are not able to send their children to school, they can’t feed their children, there’s no opportunity for them, no opportunity for their children when they graduate from school; but people, I think when the time comes, will do the right thing.”

Exeter opined that the constituency has not grown economically for at least two decades, saying that the drop-out rates in schools were high and the fishing communities have not developed.

“That speaks a lot to the economy. I think a lot of it is attributed to people not being able to properly send their children to school. I can’t think of any other explanation for it, for such a high disparity of kids actually dropping out of school,” he said.

“We are known historically as fishing villages; Layou, Barrouallie and Buccament and we are still fishing in the method of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, two boats and a seine. We need to modernize our fishing.”

Exeter, who returned to St Vincent and the Grenadines a few years ago from Canada, where he lived for several years, was not present in SVG for the last elections in 2010.

“I’m hearing that there could be a lot of fear mongering going on, where people tell people they can determine who they vote for and they could be victimized at the end of the day. I’m just telling people that there’s no way that anyone can determine who you voted for in any election. So don’t fall trap to the fear mongering. Vote for what you believe in and for the development of your family, community and the country,” the candidate said.

At a ULP Central Leeward constituency council meeting last Sunday, Sir Louis Straker got the final nod to be considered by the ULP’s central executive as the­­­­ candidate for Central Leeward in the next general elections, constitutionally due by March 2016.

Straker served as the Member of Parliament for Central Leeward from 1994 to 2010, when he retired from active politics. During the years 2001 to 2010, as a member of the ULP government, Straker held the position of deputy prime minister, along with the portfolio of minister of foreign affairs and at one time, minister of transporation and works.

According to reports reaching SEARCHLIGHT, at last Sunday’s meeting, two men — current parliamentary representative Maxwell Charles and challenger Dunstan Johnson — were nominated by supporters to be the candidate for the ULP. However, neither man agreed to withdraw and endorse the other, and with the party hierarchy being unwilling to put the matter to a vote, the candidacy of Straker was proposed and accepted as a compromise.