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Leacock: NDP not out of steam

Leacock: NDP not out of steam

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This last weekend saw the political temperature rise a few more notches as Vincentians become psychologically prepared for another general election.

The popular Saturday morning discussion programme “Letter From the Ground”, by the controversial Candy Edwards, which is carried on Nice Radio appealed for an end to the campaign. Candy provocatively declared that the best Christmas gift to the people [of SVG] would be the calling of elections before Christmas and a victory for the incumbent Unity Labour Party.

But rather than debate what was an obvious ploy to evoke discussion, most of the early callers preferred to debate what they considered recent “racist” remarks by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves made at two recent ULP outings at North and South Leeward. {{more}} Dr. Gonsalves had made two statements to the effect that had US president George Bush met he, Gonsalves and Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace in the dark of night Bush would more readily recognize Gonsalves rather than Eustace.

Was this a racist or an unfortunate remark from Dr. Gonsalves? In the rough and tumble of politics anything is fair game and discussion can run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Callers to the Letter seem not to at times be able to distinguish between this and the NDP/sponsored New Times programme. Therefore, an otherwise interesting and thought-provoking “Letter From The Ground” was left floundering in preference to attacks on issues ranging from the six-time-elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Cuba’s generosity toward this country. The most ridiculous of the callers declared that Cuba must be getting finance from Al Qaida to be able to assist us! Luckily, analyst Dr. Adrian Fraser attempted to stop that caller.

The racism theme has once again been pushed to the fore of Vincentian politics with the distribution of flyers, which accused the Prime Minister of being racist for appointing white skinned Vincentians to a few prominent positions. If we followed the flyer’s [il]logic, prominent legal mind Margaret Ferrari was appointed Ambassador to the US only on the basis of her white skin. Equally, agriculturalist Victor Hadley had no place being asked to contribute his expertise to the nation’s National Properties LTD’s board and Julian Frances was made a senator only the basis of his pale skin.

That sparked a vigourous response from Glen Jackson on the pro-ULP’s Shake Up programme, which seems set to continue in this vein for a while.

During this campaign, the NDP was first off the blocks with several massive and impressive candidate launchings. First there was Dr. Linton Lewis throwing down the gauntlet to the ULP’s incumbent Clayton Burgin for the East St. George seat.

Novice NDP candidate Cameron “Dinky” Balcombe broke with traditional family support for Labour to issue a challenge to none other than Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves himself for the North Central Windward constituency.

Barrouallie’s Norrell Hull hopes to be third time lucky and will for a third time seek to dethrone incumbent deputy Prime Minister Louis Straker in Central Leeward.

One of the shining lights in the NDP’s campaign is new-comer Daniel Cummings, a man who comes with impressive credentials as a former successful manager of the Central Water and Sewerage Authority for two decades. He launched in West Kingstown, declaring his hand early and fancying his chances against ULP’s incumbent Rene Baptiste, who only won over the NDP’s John Horne during a nationwide swing last poll by 132 votes. That should make an interesting fight and the ULP has gone after what they consider Cummings’ archilles heel, his infamous church-stoning incident, which he has publicly sought to explain.

The NDP meanwhile also announced the candidacy of Terrance Ollivierre in the Southern Grenadines, which they consider safe ground.

The ULP responded with a dizzying series of openings of major projects, which have included a coconut bottling water plant, learning resource centers and the announcement of an approach to the construction of the international airport at Argyle. The latest were the launching of the new Coast Guard vessel named for the late Labour stalwart H.K. Tannis and the opening of an architecturally pleasing Canouan Police Station which the ULP will hope can help push their Southern Grenadines candidate Edwin Snagg over the victory margin this time.

The ULP continued with a mass meeting at Campden Park where they are attempting to bolster the image of their incumbent Dr. Douglas Slater who himself got a shot in the arm with the Vision Now programme.

The latest ULP outing was a Sunday night rally at the Calliaqua Playing Field aimed at bolstering Clayton Burgin’s defence of territory being claimed by the NDP’s “achiever” Dr. Linton Lewis who has announced he has “come back home”.

But is the NDP deliberately quiet? Public Relations Officer St.Clair Leacock says, “no we have neither gone quiet or run out of steam”. Leacock told SEARCHLIGHT that there is no silence from his party, which he reminded, maintains its popular New Times radio programme hosted by the controversial E.G. Lynch.

“We have changed the form of campaign for a deeper sense of listenership…which is deliberate”

He pointed out that the party leadership only last Thursday conducted a walk-around in the Greggs area, where their UK-based lawyer Brereton Horne is expected to challenge the ULP’s incumbent Selman Walters. Their walk-around may have been an attempt to appease dis-affected pro-Israel Bruce supporters in the area.

But Leacock is confident that the party is maintaining a good profile. He pointed to party president Arnhim Eustace’s interventions on the crucial banana issue recently in his capacity as a former chairman of the Windward Islands Banana Development Company (WIBDECO) as evidence of the NDP’s activities.

The NDP is to hit the public trail again on October 1st with the launch of Leacock’s own campaign with a mass rally in Central Kingstown where he hopes to dethrone the ULP’s incumbent Conrad Sayers.

Then the party will turn its sights on the North Windward constituency for the launch of the candidacy of Elvis Daniel to oppose the ULP’s incumbent Montgomery Daniel for a clash of the Daniels.

The NDP is still to announce its candidates for several other seats including West St. George where talk show host Frank DaSilva has announced his candidacy even though former ambassador Kingsley Layne is still expressing interest.

Meanwhile the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Christian Council convenes the first meeting of the National Monitoring and Consultative Mechanism (NMCM) today at the Methodist Church Hall.

The grouping should discuss a Code of Conduct for general elections here. The NMCM was established to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections.

And the date for the poll is yet to be announced by the Prime Minister.

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