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Of leadership, the church and the state

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by Dr Douglas Slater 02.NOV.07

Events over the past few weeks, and especially over the Independence weekend, have inspired me to pen a few lines.

As a politician, I am quite aware of the partisan divisiveness that unfortunately exists in St Vincent and the Grenadines, in a manner that is non-productive and generally undesirable. So I expect that what I may say may be viewed as biased, However, I will try to be as objective and level headed as possible, and open to criticism, “hopefully constructive,” where deemed to be necessary.{{more}}

I read the various Independence Anniversary messages from our leaders; religious and secular, including our political leaders. I am of the opinion that the anniversary of our Nation’s Independence is an occasion for leaders to inspire hope and optimism, to encourage our citizens to work harder to improve productivity, to demonstrate a spirit of unity, respect for each other and brotherly and, national love, among other positive sentiments that can be contemplated.

I attended the Rededication service of the Kingstown Methodist Church. There couldn’t be a more appropriate timing for such an up-lifting celebration. I listened intently to the proceedings, and I couldn’t help but make mental comparisons of leadership at all levels in our nation. I thought that our Independence Anniversary celebrations were in a peculiar way similar to the Rededication of the Church. I thought both were occasions to express a feeling of pride and achievement and, in a sense, a renaissance.

I heard of the daunting task of raising more than 1.5 million dollars to repair the Church building, when the account had barely thirty five thousand dollars! I am certain that many members thought the project was not possible. But I also heard of optimism, determination, creativity, ingenuity, of confidence, hope and faith. What better example of the belief in the ability of mankind, through no doubt the inspiration of God. I heard, with God, all things are possible. But that possibility is implemented by man whose leadership, such as that demonstrated by the Reverend Job and his members, must be inspirational, and must exude a sense of “it can be done,” despite the many challenges.

So my political mind went into overdrive, and I thought; but, this is the same leadership philosophy and style that Prime Minister Gonsalves and the ULP administration promote and practise. One where our students, youth, professionals, artistes, athletes, fishermen, entrepreneurs, farmers and all workers and citizens in general are encouraged to work hard, to be more productive; to strive for excellence in all their endeavors; to be thrifty, to be honest, to be just, to believe in self, and that a task despite difficulties can be accomplished with sufficient effort.

I heard of other difficulties, such as hurricanes, and earthquakes that caused the repeated rebuilding of Rev Watty’s church in Dominica, but again there was a positive approach and the exercise of hope and faith that, together with love, seem to be a sound formula for success. Then I remembered the doubting Thomases who scoffed at the idea of the Rabacca bridge, I remembered how Mr. Eustace thought that a 100% mortgage for public workers was nigh impossible, and I remembered that there are still some who think or believe that the Argyle International Airport wouldn’t be a reality, and I thought; “oh ye of little faith”. Reverend Watty defined Faith then as “the substance of things hoped for” and “the evidence of things not seen”. How appropriate!

I would, therefore, like readers to return to the Independence Anniversary messages and tell me how our leaders rate. I specifically want readers to note that of the Leader of the Opposition. If we accept the foregoing discourse, then it must be reasonable to conclude that Mr. Eustace’s message was a total disaster. It was uninspiring, pessimistic, uncreative, hopeless, incorrect in many instances and thus undesirable for a Nation in development as is ours. There were instances of misinformation consciously so or out of ignorance of the facts, both unacceptable from a leader. At other times, he rehashed relatively minor issues that have been effectively dealt with, so that we ought to move on. E.g of Moko, just like the fruit-fly, was managed promptly and effectively, unlike the management of the mealy bug during his administration; he mentioned the Medical School issue, ignoring the fact that it is a private foreign business whose decisions are under minimum control by Government and that discussions are ongoing about which we are optimistic of a favourable outcome. Where is the evidence of a decline of medical services, and resignation of several Doctors? We can supply information to counter that sentiment.

Mr. Eustace is dishonest regarding the implementation and impact of VAT on the cost of commodities, and thus the cost of living. He is an Economist. His administration began and endorsed the principle of VAT. He knows or should know that properly implemented by the merchants, VAT cannot be the reason for the increased prices of most commodities. He knows as most persons who follow international news do that external factors such as significant increases of commodity prices world wide for items such as wheat for flour, corn and other grain involved in animal food production have resulted in the increased cost of meats and dairy products like milk and cheese. Then oil prices have more than tripled in the last year. Energy is among the most important ingredient in the production of all commodities. These, dear readers, are the main causes of increases in prices. Be honest, Mr. Eustace, You should be encouraging our citizens to mitigate these increases; that will show you as a responsible leader. Then the “expensive “car for the PM; the public knows that the PM had an accident and the vehicle was written off. This new vehicle is a replacement, paid for in most by the insurance. It is a vehicle renowned for its exceptional safety features. Is it unreasonable to purchase a safer vehicle for the nation’s PM? And please, it does not cost a million dollars as stated by the NDP, not even a quarter million! Stop lying to the nation! Folks, go online and check for yourself. Well, we have all heard how much percentage increase will be paid to Public employees, certainly not 3% as stated by Mr. Eustace. Unless arithmetic is one of his many weaknesses, then he is mischievously misinforming the public since 5+4+4, or even 6, as is the case for some with respect to the reclassification, is at least 13. Did you inadvertently or maliciously ignore the “1” in front of the 3? I believe it’s the latter. This is termed lying by some, and that is unacceptable and unbecoming of a leader.

I am glad, and certainly members of the Methodist Church, that Mr. Eustace was not on the “Church refurbishing Committee”! His negativism and lack of hope and belief in the ability to get things done would certainly have dampened the spirits of the rest, or maybe not! Just like how Vincentians ignore his pessimistic leadership, I believe that magnificent team would have also. Congrats, Rev Job and members. Well done! Exemplary leadership!

Our leaders must follow such examples. They must demonstrate the positive qualities discussed in this article. Mr. Eustace has not. Is this the type of leadership our Nation at this critical stage of our development wants, or needs, or more importantly, deserves? Is this the type of leadership the NDP needs? The answer is certainly and simply “NO”.





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