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NDP, ease off Vincy homecoming

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22.MAY.09

Editor: In response to my intervention on Randy Dopwell’s show last Saturday, May 16, 2009, on the issue of Vincy homecoming, the parliamentary leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Mr. Arnhim Eustace denounced me, as not having my facts straight before opening my mouth.{{more}} As such, I wish to make clearer the points I raised then and not necessarily to rebut the views of a seasoned economist and politician. Note also, my point of view is that of a layperson.

First of all, I am amazed that Mr. Eustace does not fully appreciate how the weakness of the NDP comes out in his and the statements of its supporters, as they promote non-participation in the Homecoming activities. They claim that Ralph Gonsalves, leader of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) can manipulate the October 2009 Homecoming Conference, to bolster its support for the constitutional reform. They also claim that the electoral register is riddled with people who can come home to vote.

As far as I am aware, most Vincentians living in the US who are likely to take such an active part in the elections in SVG would come from New York. This is borne out by the claims of NDP supporters, that some Vincentians in New York were able to vote in New York and the ballots were transferred to SVG to be tallied, as part of the last general election. I am not aware of any other allegation of this happening elsewhere in the US.

The questions raised here, therefore, are simple. How many Vincentians who have left SVG for New York, within the last five years, are able to return in October for the purpose of voting in the November 2009 referendum, without the risk of losing an opportunity of their American dream? How many working Vincentians living in New York can afford to abandon their jobs for this referendum? The US immigration laws and employment practices do not facilitate planeloads of such Vincentian nationals. Is the NDP also saying they are denied the opportunity

to inspect and monitor the electoral process? Does the party not have workers on the ground to report the discrepancies they talk about, especially that relating to their claim of a corrupt electoral register?

Further, what has the NDP done about the information gleaned about these discrepancies? And if the court’s backlog is a problem, to what extent have they discussed this in public let alone in Parliament? Further, if Ralph Gonsalves and the ULP, with less than the requisite 66 per cent of the electorate, were able to influence the referendum to their party’s advantage, then the NDP’s political capacity to persuade and govern must be questioned. After all, they had 40 per cent of the electorate at the last general election even after the ULP flew in “planeloads” of their voters from the US and the Caribbean region, as the NDP supporters alleged.

Secondly, the argument that few politicians in our Caribbean small island states, have the wherewithal to make a significant difference to their people’s economic and financial hardship is not to be dismissed in the way that Mr. Eustace is well-known: a condescending frown on his face as he throws a hand in the air with the attitude of ‘you-don’t-know-what-you-talking-about.’ On this issue, it is important to note, also, that the shortsightedness of putting lock, stock and barrel in a financial service industry, that accommodates major tax evaders of other countries, was not that of the ULP. I hasten to add that the idea of a WIBDECO, to buffer some of the trade restrictions imposed by the World Trade Organisation came from Mr. Eustace and that served us well in the banana industry. To what extent, though, was there any effort to explore other markets, not just for bananas, but for other agricultural produce thus ensuring sustainability? If a policy was in place, how did it manifest on the ground and among farmers? It was the policy of the NDP that agriculture is old fashion. Were it not for that policy, we probably would be better able to feed ourselves today.

All parties in SVG, including the ULP, have failed us in this regard, considering they have all relied on the US leadership in their gambling practices, as major components of our economy and at the expense of our reliance on our own natural resources: fertile lands.

Additionally, one can argue that our politicians are bankrupt of ideas for development and are not being honest with us. Further, these politicians cannot get us out of this quagmire, without the active involvement of ordinary Vincentians.

It is my argument, therefore, that the SVG Home Coming Conference that took place in New York on May 9, 2009, has pointed us in the right direction and on October 22, 2009, we intend to continue our dialogue as Vincentians living in the Diaspora and at home.

We intend to help shape the future of SVG with or without the NDP and we shall ensure the recommendations from that conference, are placed in the hands of leaders who would not discard our efforts for some party political gain. By the way, I hope to see the Green Party’s active participation.

Luzette King

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