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Friday to focus on outreach, organization

Friday to focus on outreach, organization

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Having been declared president of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Dr Godwin Friday intends to concentrate on better organizing the party’s constituency branches and engaging more people beyond the party’s normal circles.

Last Sunday, November 27, during an extraordinary convention,{{more}} Friday was declared winner by acclamation of the two-way presidential race between himself and Major St Clair Leacock, after Leacock withdrew his candidacy.

The extraordinary convention to elect a new president for the party became necessary when on Tuesday, November 15, former president Arnhim Eustace, who had led the party for 16 years, announced his intention to resign as president and Leader of the Opposition.

In his acceptance speech, Friday, the Parliamentary representative for the Northern Grenadines for the last 15 years, described last Sunday as a good day for democracy.

“Today, we continue to build on the years of struggle as we prepare ourselves for a remarkable victory soon. Today, the NDP has recommitted itself to unity and progress. Today is a good day for democracy, a good day for our party and a good day for the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

He thanked all the delegates and all who participated in what he called “a wonderful show of democracy.”

He also thanked Major St Clair Leacock, parliamentary representative for Central Kingstown, who had also put himself up for leadership of the party.

“There were no losers today; our party won today,” Friday said.

Paying tribute to the outgoing leader, Friday said in his estimation and that of all present and the majority of people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Eustace would be measured as “a giant of a man in the politics of this country.”

Friday said while this is a period of transition for the NDP, it is also a period of great opportunity.

“It is our chance to embrace as we have never done before, not only friends and colleagues, but old foes and adversaries, who have now come to view that St Vincent and the Grenadines deserves better than the Government we have.

“We have to build a new coalition, a broader coalition. The patriots of our land, no matter their political history, no matter how many battles we have fought each other, must now unite, because we know now, we have one common enemy, one common adversary. The common enemy is the Government that has brought more poverty to this land. The common enemy is the Government that has promised so much and delivered so little. The common enemy that has made corruption and graft the norm, has taken so much and has left only crumbs for the rest of us.”

He told party supporters that there is a greater fight that must be won and he can be counted on to lead the charge.

“As a party, we, of course, have to prepare ourselves better for battle. Going forward, we must concentrate on two things: better organizing of our constituency branches and engaging more people beyond our normal circles. Even while in opposition, we must show that we are serious about governance. And so we must build the party from the polling divisions up, from village to village, constituency to constituency.”

He said he will soon undertake a listening tour of the country.

“I will embark soon, on a 15 constituency listening and waiting tour, where I will hear from the ordinary people, party supporters and non-supporters alike. We will engage in a conversation with our people, so that they too can help us to solve our problems.”

A robust work plan for organization and mobilization will also be developed, he said.

The incoming leader said he will pay “fresh and added attention” to the youth and women and a programme will be developed to engage the students of the country.

“We must show greater respect for our young people and engage them more meaningfully in the political process, not just party and dance, dance.”

The NDP must, he said, broaden its capacity to raise funds and to even employ people on a full-time basis to do political work on behalf of the party.

“There is too much at stake for us to fall short, or take our eyes off the ball. Too many people in St Vincent and the Grenadines are depending on us to usher in a new day for us to fail them.”

He made a special appeal to disillusioned supporters of the Unity Labour Party (ULP).

“Today, I come ready to embrace the disillusioned ULP supporters. Today, I continue to feel for the victimized, and I empathize with those who fear victimization. And now we are ready to march forward. No longer fearful of one another, no longer suspicious of our neighbour.

“We are closer to victory than we imagine, so let us make it happen.

After his acceptance speech, Friday told reporters that the fact that he was declared winner by acclamation shows unity and support within the NDP.

He said leading up to Sunday’s vote, he spoke to his parliamentary colleagues, and to individuals who were in the various constituencies and asked them to give him their support.

“I wanted them to know that I was going to step up to the challenge, because I felt it was important for me to do so, and that many people expected that I would do so and most of all, I feel it is my duty and obligation and I wanted to do it on behalf of the people of this country. So I am glad that I have had the support that I received… and we were able to do this by acclamation.”

Friday, a lawyer by profession, said one of the first things he wants to do is get closer to the people of the country.

A Bequia native, the new president said although he has relatives on the mainland, went to school in St Vincent and has friends there, that does not substitute for going out and meeting people in the communities and seeing the conditions under which they live.

“…I will do that as the leader of the party and I will also insist …that is job one for everybody, that you have to go into the constituency and see what the people are doing, so that you can represent them the way they expect you to. I think if you do that, it is easy to win elections.

“…We have to give more hope and I think that this is the sense that I bring to the New Democratic Party and to the politics of St Vincent and the Grenadines and I will try my best to deliver,” he said.

Ahead of last Sunday’s convention, on Monday, November 21, Friday also officially became the Opposition Leader, after the majority of the Opposition parliamentarians voted for him to succeed Eustace.

Friday is the second leader of the NDP to originate from the Grenadine island of Bequia.

The party’s founder, Sir James Mitchell, is also a Bequia native. When Mitchell retired from active politics in 2001, Friday succeeded him as the candidate for the NDP in the Northern Grenadines and won that seat in the March 31, 2001 general elections.

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