Hundreds attend ‘An Evening with the Prime Minister’ in NY
by Tricia Reddock
Riding on the euphoria of his well received United Nations General Assembly speech this past Friday, the Prime Minister on Saturday evening outlined to Vincentians in New York, his vision for St Vincent & the Grenadines’ increasingly prominent role in the global conversation surrounding climate change, unilateralism and sovereignty.
Dr Ralph Gonsalves made the case for greater preparation and sustainability as the Caribbean region braces itself for even more extreme catastrophic weather events as predicted by the vast majority of scientists.
“Developing small island states can teach these big countries a thing or two about how to deal with climate change as we have been at the forefront.”
Highlighting the importance of small island states like SVG who are most affected thus far, Gonsalves cited extreme weather catastrophes including the recent devastation in the Bahamas.
Over 300 Vincentians attended the event, held at Friends of Crown Heights in Brooklyn. The Prime Minister was accompanied by Lou-anne Gilchrist and Rhonda King, this country’s ambassadors to the United States and the United Nations respectively, as well as New York Consul General Howie Prince. Also in attendance was his delegation to the UN General Assembly and staff members supporting the UN Security Council delegation.
Repeating and expanding on the themes discussed in Friday’s address to the UN, Gonsalves gave a brief, and informative history of SVG’s economic development and metamorphosis from a primarily agro economy to a service based economy aided by the education revolution.
The excitement in the air was palpable and celebratory as Gonsalves told the enthused audience about major accomplishments by his ULP administration, notably: the completion and opening of Argyle International Airport, SVG’s election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, the construction of the bridge over the Rabacca River, and the geothermal project at Georgetown.
Gonsalves also went over quality of life gains for ordinary Vincentians through improvements in infrastructure, utility services and technological advances, citing comparative statistics such as GDP and per capital income, both of which increased to bolster the economy, essential services. access to education and other quality of life indicators.
The standing room audience appeared very receptive, often erupting into applause.
He spoke about upcoming projects, which include a new courthouse and House of Parliament, 40 miles of footpaths in rural areas, renovations of the schools nationwide, a referral healthcare facility at Arnos Vale and a sporting facility to be constructed at Diamond.
The event was billed as “An Evening with the Prime Minster.” The purpose being to inform Vincentians about current and ongoing projects. The decision to forgo a question and answer session was met with some criticism from political opponents.
Outside the facility, there was a small group of about eight protesters with placards who identified themselves as, “The Internet Crazies,” referencing a past comment by the Prime Minister regarding their online activities.
Doug King Howard, one of the protesters, explained that they attend these meetings regularly in the US, Canada and UK.
“We have been following what has been happening on SVG and we do not think the government is doing a good job. People are suffering and if not for remittances, SVG would fall flat on its face. We think we need to be a voice.”
However, the protesters remained outside and caused no disruption to the event.
Gonsalves ended the evening by defiantly referencing some of the resistance he encountered and overcame.
“When I said I was going to build a bridge over the ‘dry river’ they said this fella is crazy because of the expanse. James Mitchell said the thing is so ludicrous that is better that Ralph better off talking about building a tunnel.
“Well I am here to let them know I am stronger than ever to strive, to seek, to find, but never to yield. I will never yield to the vagabonds and hypocrites who want to see Ralph move from this position.”