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Friday not allowed to speak at Vincy Unity Picnic in Canada

Friday not allowed to speak at Vincy Unity Picnic in Canada

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by Chanolde Munroe

The Leader of the Opposition is of the opinion that an opportunity was missed by the organizers of the ‘Vincy Unity Picnic’ when he was not allowed to address the gathering last Saturday in Canada.

“I would have thought that this being a ‘unity picnic,’ it would be a very good opportunity for the diaspora to say well listen, this is not a political event, this is an event for all Vincentians and friends…and so let’s all come together and enjoy each other’s company and show that we are one Vincy basically,” Dr Godwin Friday said in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday.

The Opposition Leader explained that when he made the decision to attend the picnic, which was held at Brown’s Bay Park, Ontario, he expected that an opportunity would have been afforded to him to not only meet and greet persons, but to address the event.

“So, a request was made. I fully expected that they would say ‘fine, we are happy to have you;’ apparently they said no,” he said.

“I have not been given any satisfactory explanation as to why. Just simply that they were following their usual practice of inviting the Government. In fact, that wasn’t told to me; the decision was that I would not speak,” he said, adding that this did not stop him from interacting with persons at the picnic.

Admitting that he was not invited by the organizers to event, Friday, however, said he felt it important to attend to show Vincentians in the diaspora that they are important and he appreciates the relationship with them.

“People were just happy to see me because I am the Leader of the Opposition and I took the time to come, to be there. I think people were happy about that and I certainly was very happy and very pleased to be there and was overwhelmed and humbled by the reception I received,” Friday said.

Friday said he arrived at the venue early and was able to speak to persons of both “political persuasions,” but noted that as Leader of the Opposition, respect should have been given to the office he holds.

“I am not just the leader of the NDP, I am the leader of the Opposition. It’s a constitutional position, a part of our structure and system of government. So I thought that at least… the respect for the office should have been shown.”

Despite what transpired last Saturday, Friday said he plans on making the Unity Picnic an annual event on his calendar.

President of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Association of Toronto Gideon Exeter explained in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT that the picnic is coordinated by the St Vincent Association Groups of Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa.  

He said at the request of his brother, Benjamin Exeter, NDP candidate for Central Leeward in the 2015 general elections, he asked the organizing committee for Friday to be given permission to speak.

“I made that request to the organizing committee and the request was denied,” he stated.

Exeter said as far as he is aware, no other member of the NDP has ever spoken at the picnic in the past.

He said it is the practice of the organizing committee to invite members of the Government to address the picnic.

“The Government of St Vincent was invited to send a representative and they sent the Minister of Health Luke Browne.”

SEARCHLIGHT made several attempts to contact Sandra Bobb, head of the ‘Vincy Unity Picnic’ organizing committee; however, our attempts were futile.

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