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Very bad two weeks or so for the NDP

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Editor: Over the past two or so weeks, the opposition NDP has been especially ragged, opportunist, ill-informed, wild and politically dishonest. This summary conclusion arises from any objective assessment of the NDP’s handling of issues. These issues touch and concern the following: the bogus claim that the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines lent Grenada the sum of EC$5 million; the dishonest assertion that the Government borrows an additional EC $25 million in Treasury Bills every month;{{more}} the falsehood that refugee claims by Vincentians have little or nothing to do with the imposition of a visa requirement by Canada; the untruth that the economy of St Vincent and the Grenadines is the worst in the region and has had its fourth consecutive year of negative growth; and the irresponsible reaction to the Court of Appeal’s decision to deny the NDP leave to appeal to the Privy Council in the so-called “election cases”.

In each of these, the Leader of the Opposition has been at the forefront of the NDP’s bewildering display. Let us address each, briefly, in turn.

First, the bogus $5 million loan. As the Prime Minister so lucidly outlined in a letter to the news media, there never was a loan to Grenada by the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines. The Prime Minister gave chapter and verse about the nature and use of country-specific financial allocations for the member-countries of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB). Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace blindly and opportunistically followed Cools Vanloo of the Public Service Union (PSU) with his bogus and false claim. Did Eustace genuinely not know how this ECCB facility works or was he being dishonest or has he simply “lost” it?

Secondly, the dishonesty about the EC $25 million Treasury Bills monthly. Eustace asserted on SVG-TV that every month the Government borrows $25 million by way of Treasury Bills to pay salaries. He said that it was at first $16 million, and then $20 million monthly. So, $25 million monthly means $300 million annually. But this is where Eustace is being disingenuous. The total outstanding debt of the Government by way of Treasury Bills is EC $75 million; these Treasury Bills are rolled over monthly in tranches of $25 million each. So, each rolling issue pays for the previous issue. They are sold on the Regional Government Securities Market (RGSM) at competitive market rates. The last issue was sold at an annualised interest rate of 3.25 percent. When Eustace left office in 2001, there were $48 million in Treasury Bills issued out of Kingstown at a fixed rate of 6.5 percent. So, Ralph has added only $27 million in Treasury Bills in 11 years in government since March 2001. By issuing the Treasury Bills on RGSM, the Government saves at least $1 million annually on Eustace’s $48 million leftover Treasury Bills. Has Eustace forgotten how Treasury Bills roll over? Does he not really understand or is he being dishonest or has he “lost” it?

Thirdly, the dishonesty about visa requirement for Canada. The top NDP leaders, including Eustace, St Clair Leacock, and Jeannie Ollivierre are on record publicly of helping Vincentians with refugee claims. It is well-known that, even within the context of Canada’s generous and liberal refugee laws and practices, most of these refugee claims are by far outrageously bogus. The Canadian High Commission in its communication with the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines lists two reasons for the imposition of the visa requirement, namely: excessive refugee claims and immigration violations. Eustace and the NDP ignore this specific communication to St Vincent and the Grenadines and prefer instead the generalised catch-all of “unreliable travel documents” which was used as the lump-all declaration against several countries, including St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The evidence, of course, does not favour the NDP. As Kenton Chance recently showed in Searchlight, there have been some 5,000 refugee claims by Vincentians in the 2001 to 2011 period. By comparison, “unreliable travel documents” number a handful. It is a matter of record that the ULP government has instituted stringent measures, including a quality machine-readable passport, to ensure the reliability of travel documents. Incidentally, at every turn, the NDP opposed these stringent new measures on the basis of an opportunistic populism that “ULP is making it more difficult for poor people to get their birth certificates and passports”. It is a fact, too, that the United Kingdom Border Control Agency has given St Vincent and the Grenadines a clean bill of health regarding its travel documents, after it had done an on-site examination in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Further, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ authorities prosecute anyone who violates its processes and procures any travel document fraudulently.

By damning our country’s travel documents, Eustace and the NDP are being unpatriotic for no reason, but to assail the ULP government. Is Eustace not losing it? Is he not being dishonest on this issue? Does he have amnesia in relation to “unreliable travel documents” under the NDP, which condition the ULP government has corrected wholly or substantially?

Fourthly, the Eustace lies about the economy. In 2008 the economy of St Vincent and the Grenadines grew by 0.4 percent. Since 2008, and continuing, only St Lucia has performed better in the ECCU member-countries than St Vincent and the Grenadines in terms of economic growth. St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica are in a virtual statistical tie. Further, St Vincent and the Grenadines has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio (about 66 percent) in the ECCU; St Lucia is in second place. Eustace denies all this. Journalists must check the ECCB and get the numbers. Why mislead the public, Eustace? Or are you losing it?

Finally, the NDP’s reaction to their defeat at the Court of Appeal on the “election cases”. Vynnette Frederick, a lawyer and NDP parliamentarian, asserted that “it was expected” that the Court of Appeal would turn down the NDP claimants quest for leave to appeal to the Privy Council on their election cases. Eustace joined her in this nonsense utterance. As Jomo Thomas logically pointed out recently in his newspaper column, such an expectation of defeat stems from two sources: an appreciation that the applications to the Court of Appeal were without merit; or the Court of Appeal is politically-biased against the NDP. In either case, the NDP is wholly irresponsible and dangerous to the body politic. The simple truth is that the NDP applicants failed because both the facts and the law were against them.

On a related issue, how can Frederick and Eustace play holier-than-thou, amidst all the affected sanctimony they can muster, when the facts before the Court and the Court of Appeal’s opinion itself are that Frederick fabricated evidence in her affidavits against Dr Ralph Gonsalves regarding his speech at Park Hill in August 2010, about which she has complained? It is this falsehood which the prosecution now alleges amounts to perjury (contrary to Section 96 of the Criminal Code) and for which she is charged before the Criminal Court! Frederick is, of course, entitled to the presumption of innocence in the case against her, but she has admitted in an affidavit that her earlier recitation of the facts against Dr Gonsalves is false, due to “inadvertence”. What a tangled web in which she has enmeshed herself and in which Eustace has deliberately thrown himself. Frank Da Silva’s “Tale of Two Tapes” and his recent offering on “the untouchable” Frederick are required reading in all this.

The upshot is that the NDP, like Mitt Romney in the USA, has had a terrible two or so weeks. Thus, again it shows that the NDP and Eustace are not fit for the purpose of governance.

Hans King
Press Secretary to the Prime Minister

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