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ULP incumbent, challenger for Central Leeward refuse to withdraw, so Sir Louis is back!

ULP incumbent, challenger for Central Leeward refuse to withdraw, so Sir Louis is back!


Sir Louis Straker is back!

Just over four years after he called it quits from active politics, Straker, 71, who was parliamentary representative for the constituency of Central Leeward from 1994 to 2010, was called back by the Unity Labour Party (ULP) to be the party’s candidate in the upcoming general elections.{{more}}

Straker’s recall came after the constituency council, which met last Sunday afternoon, could not decide who, between present parliamentary representative Maxwell Charles, and challenger Dunstan Johnson, should go forward as the party’s candidate.

According to a usually reliable source, who was present at the Central Leeward Secondary School where the meeting was held, even before the session was called to order, tempers flared, as party stalwarts argued for and against the two men who were vying for the candidacy.

Describing the meeting as “boisterous almost from beginning to end,” the source said political leader of the ULP Dr Ralph Gonsalves, realizing that the party could not retain the seat unless there was serious fence-mending, asked both men — beginning with the challenger — to voluntarily withdraw in the interest of party unity. Johnson refused and so did the current representative.

The source told SEARCHLIGHT that much of the division seemed centred around a rivalry between the towns of Layou and Barrouallie.

Central Leeward is the only constituency in SVG which spans two towns. Johnson originates from Barrouallie, and according to the source, shouts of “We want a Barrouallie man” could be heard emanating from certain areas of the crowd. Charles is from Buccament and worships at a church in Layou.

After an open forum on the issue, during which persons in attendance were allowed to ventilate, the political leader then asked Charles and Johnson and the gathering whether the return of former representative Sir Louis Straker would be an amicable solution.

While Charles seemed ready to relent, Johnson, who had also vied for candidacy of Central Leeward on a ULP ticket in 2010 when Straker withdrew, was adamant that the matter be put to a vote.

“Why am I being asked to do the honourable thing again?” he reportedly asked.

Johnson’s wish, however, was not granted. Gonsalves, after consultation with the elders of the constituency, announced that he would approach Sir Louis to see if he would be willing to make a comeback.

Straker, in a call to Star Radio yesterday morning said when he received the call asking him if he would consider running again, he immediately called his wife in New York, then he knelt by his bedside and prayed.

He said his wife was as shocked as he was and said, “You mean to think that you going back into this thing!”

The veteran politician said he told the Prime Minister that he (Straker) had some friends at the meeting and Gonsalves should consult with them.

“I asked the Lord to show me his way and his will that I should make a decision.”

“The Prime Minister called back and said he spoke to my friends and the people are saying that is the best thing that can happen if I come back to represent them. I told him that I am not coming there at all, I am going to a crusade in Barrouallie.”

The former deputy prime minister, however said when he got to the junction of the Central Leeward Secondary School on his way to Barrouallie, he slowed down and people began mobbing his car, saying that he was needed in the meeting.

“I said, no, no, let them work it out,” Straker said.

He, however, returned to the meeting later on, when the political leader sent for him.

“I had to respond to the people. The Prime Minister said he spoke to Dunstan, he spoke to Maxwell; both of them agreed that if I were to consider coming back, they would step aside,” Straker related.

According to the source, when Straker arrived, the boisterous crowd simmered down and the former representative was greeted warmly. Flanked by Charles and Johnson, Straker stood at podium and was nominated by Charles and seconded by Johnson.

Straker, speaking on Star Radio, said he intends to wage “a vigorous campaign.”

“I intend to do my best”

“I intend to do the best I can to make sure the seat is kept for the Unity Labour Party (ULP) and I have no doubt at all that we would bring the seat home. I hear a lot of talk about polls showing that [New Democratic Party candidate] Ben Exeter was ahead. That is just wishful thinking. The party support remains very strong, very, very strong in Central Leeward…”

Straker, however, admitted that there was a division in the constituency.

“… [there were] those who were very, very strong for Dunstan, and those who were very strong for Maxwell and neither one would give way. Therefore, they needed somebody .. and I think I have the confidence of the people in Layou and the confidence of the people in Barrouallie, the confidence of all the people in the constituency, to serve for one more term in Central Leeward to do some of the things that the people want done and be the standard bearer, so that next election, they can get a younger person to go on.”

Declaring that he is in good health, Straker said he feels that he can carry on the campaign.

“I am honoured to serve with the team that is emerging under the ULP, under the leadership of Ralph Gonsalves, who has been my friend and has been a benefactor in a sense to Central Leeward. Many of the things we got done in Central Leeward is because I had the full support of the Prime Minister.

He also stated that he would be “glad” to be of assistance to the ULP candidates Carlos James and Jomo Thomas in the neighbouring constituencies of North and South Leeward respectively.