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Eustace: The buck stops here

Eustace: The buck stops here

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The attendance at the New Democratic Party, NDP convention did not have the customary overly packed hall of yellow t-shirts on Sunday, December 10.

And while those on the opposing side said that this was an indication that the NDP and its leadership was in shambles “NDP-ites” said that inclement weather held back many other supporters from being present.{{more}}

Despite a one-hour late start, the lively crowd reflected on their accomplishments under the theme “Thirty-One Years of Service to the Nation: From ’gouti Tracks to Land Reform.”

Stepping to the podium was Patrice Reddock, who was the first, Public Relations Officer, Calder Williams, the first Minister of Parliament on the mainland and the longest serving Education Minister, John Horne, who as guest speakers reminisced on the years of the NDP’s existence.

The audience cheered the various speakers but it was Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace who stirred the gathering. Eustace pointed out that his party was not dead and said that a statement he once made where he indicated that he “did not wish to be the head of anything” was misconstrued to mean that he did not wish to be head of his party or country anymore.

Eustace said after being at the head for two elections campaigns and not being able to take the NDP into governance, he thought it fit that the party should get the choice on whether they wanted to elect a new leader.

“I don’t have any overriding desire to be head, I have no intention of clinging on to power at any cost. When the time comes for you to go, then you must go without rancor,” he told the convention.

The Opposition Leader however claimed that the Unity Labour Party (ULP) had a “by any means necessary” approach to holding on to power which helped them to win.

Eustace claimed that the NDP did not lose fairly and said that many irregularities occurred at polling stations. The Opposition Leader said although they had enough evidence to bring a case against the government and the Electoral Office, many of the witnesses became afraid of being victimsed and later refused to testify. Eustace said after many internal meetings with the executive and with lawyers he decided that the NDP would not take legal action and dropped the case.

JUBILEE FOR NDP: Supporters of the New Democratic Party celebrating 31 years as a political party as they cheer on the various speakers at the annual convention at Democrat House.

He pointed out “We had to take a lot of decisions immediately after the elections and those involved whether to bring constitutional motions before the court or other legal actions, petitions and other criminal acts. And we had a lot of meetings about that, at the beginning I felt quite frankly that there were about 12 instances where we could have private criminal prosecutions of persons involved in election fraud.”

He went on, “But I say this, those persons who would have been witnesses for us in those prosecutions were either afraid for their jobs, afraid for their families’ jobs or afraid that it would affect people from their own villages, whom they would have lived with or grown up with for many years. You cannot force people if they don’t want to come forward, and we take very seriously the name democratic in the middle of the name of this party.”

Accepting sole blame for not taking the legal action for the alleged election irregularities Eustace said “that is responsible leadership and the buck stops here. Whether I made the mistake or not in my capacity as leader or President of the New Democratic Party to take legal action, I take that blame. I never had a problem with it (taking blame) and that is the way I am.”

Turning to the financial state of the country, the Opposition Leader chided the Prime Minister for exorbitantly spending money and said that the Cross Country-Road was a noted example. Eustace believed that the Cross Country-Road project was not the most appropriate use of the money, which came from donors given the state of the economy.

Eustace pointed out that back in 2003 he labeled Dr Gonsalves as the “Billion Dollar Man” who by the end of his term was going to have the country in debt of a billion dollars, but said that as of September 30 2006 the national debt was $1.062 billion.

He noted that Dr Gonsalves was destroying the surplus and leaving the country with a deficit which the country had not seen in over 20 years and that the surplus for 2005 dropped from $30.6 million to $2.7 million.

The Opposition Leader said he always believed the Prime Minister’s surplus figures to be inaccurate because the overdraft as of September 30, 2006 was $56 million.

The Opposition Leader said that the International Monetary Fund IMF claimed that by 2010 the growth rate would decline every year.

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