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In search of an issue (A)

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Tue, Oct 30, 2012

Editor: “We are seeing a society where people because they support a political party tend to go along with anything the party comes up with and this is so unhealthy for our development. In a small society like this, people must be allowed to speak freely and candidly on any issue. It has nothing to do with which party you support; it has everything to do with wanting to see the best for all of us as a people and as a country….”{{more}}

On September 11, 2012, the Prime Minister held a press conference at which several statements were made. After listening, I called a couple of persons in the print media to find out who they had at the press conference. Except for one question unrelated to what the PM touted, there was nothing – no questioning of anything. After I got off the phone, I got a call from someone from South Leeward. A ULP supporter in the last election, he wanted to know, what was the point of the press conference; who were the reporters? I suggested that there might as well not be any reporters present; they ought to just stay at their desk, do like me – record and decide to write or not write. Needless to say I called the news organizations because I heard several statements from the PM that needed clarification. The decision by the Harper Government in Canada to require Vincentians to obtain visas before entering that country was not one of them. The requirement was not unique to SVG.

At the press conference the PM on road repairs: I want to urge that the persons who use our roads, I want to ask them, please, to pay up their licenses and to pay up their motor vehicle licenses as they become due, though those resources – money which we get from those don’t even come anywhere close to doing repairs.

Reporters just bought that? We are bombarded daily that the ever increasing number of vehicles on our roads are evidence of how well off we are. They tell us that since the ULP came to office, over 20,000 vehicles have been added to our roads. How many new drivers? Last month, I paid $640 to register my vehicle. When I raised that with my friend from South Leeward, we brought the average to $500, an estimate of $10m. How much from drivers? When I brought my vehicle from the US in 2003, Customs gave me a figure exceeding $35,000. I refused and took advantage of my 75 per cent exemption. Still, I paid over $15,000. Commenting on this in parliament, the PM upped the figure to $15m for motor registration alone. Citizens, motorists do you buy it that this amount “don’t even come close to doing repairs”? Lest we forget, days before Independence celebration in 2004, someone told us it would cost “close to a million” to rebuild the Vigie stretch.

The PM took a swipe at the public service union, in particular its president Cools Vanloo: This year …$5.5m for Economically Disadvantaged Student Loan Program. What do I do? Of course, my friend Cools Vanloo told me here…that I am spending money on student loan instead of giving them their three per cent…some of them are children of civil servants.

A clear attempt to pit parents against their own interest, either way you slice it. None of the reporters there seemed to be aware that in October 2010, Ralph Gonsalves told us the NCB was owed $33m and had notified the Ministry of Finance that it could no longer fund the program. What is the current indebtedness of the program? Is it likely that the taxpayers will see a repayment of any of these funds anytime soon?

But the PM may have answered: We are a migrant society, our people migrate a lot… and am sure that between 2001 and now, that pattern has accelerated because we have trained more people and more and more people in the education revolution seeking opportunities all over the world that’s why I develop a good passport, machine readable….

Surely, he jests. Was not the “machine readable passport” an international requirement? How many of these students, product of the education, have migrated and to which country? Canada, perhaps?

This brings us to the Canadian visa requirement issue – the non-starter? It deserved nothing more than a shrug, but for politicians seeking to score points. “We are a migrant society”; that is a fact –Netherlands Antilles, Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados (I even have an aunt who migrated to Grenada) England, US and Canada. Why did those people migrate to those countries? Migration has taken place under all administrations for the same reasons, but politicians who have squandered so many issues to woo voters, now scramble at anything in an attempt to convince their unhappy supporters that they are serious. That politicians have written letters to support claims of persons seeking “refugee” status in Canada is entirely new – and at great cost to the Canadians.

That the NDP officials who, more than any other, are guilty of the attempt to abuse Canada’s liberal immigration laws would try to use this to gain political points highlights their rank political ineptitude – their scrambling for anything which might make them relevant. Just as they have attempted to do with the election of The Speaker/Attorney General vote.

No less than the party chairman/Senator Linton Lewis has dismissed the continual manufactured controversy: Even if you remove the Attorney General’s vote, The Speaker will still be elected … the vote itself does not, to my mind, invalidate the process (Linton Lewis, Newtimes, October 6, 2011).

“Frank, who are you quoting above?” You ask. The answer next week.

Frank E. da Silva

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