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Dr Ralph Gonsalves – a tested leader

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Tue Dec 16, 2014

Editor: Ralph Gonsalves should be called the man of steel for his steadfast resolve in managing adversities. When I rejoined the Vincentian community, it was due to a natural disaster last December when Vincentians had their Christmas interrupted. Several people lost their lives as a result. Many communities experienced severe damage, especially my own, Vermont, where bridges were destroyed and the water supply to the Leeward as well as Kingstown was adversely affected.{{more}}

Dr Gonsalves and his able administration were quick in responding to this disaster. Unlike hurricane Katrina in the United States of America where thousands of residents were left for several days without attention, the Gonsalves administration and its supporters were on the job. Throughout the diaspora, Vincentian patriots went over and above the call of duty to country, in giving of their money, food supplies, water and their time to help those affected by the disaster.

These generous, kind and loving folks are true gems of St Vincent. They make all Vincentians proud. These individuals sacrificed their own needs to put the country first in its time of need. What more can you ask of an individual? One would think these people would have been commended by all Vincentians for the Herculean task they mastered in response to this unexpected disaster. However, there were other Vincentians who were not happy with their efforts. They launched complaints that the disaster donations were going to be used for the government to buy votes. Thus, the inference is these patriots should not have responded in the helpful ways they did.

Dr Gonsalves proved himself to be a champion leader during this disaster. He called on friendly nations who thought enough of him to give him donations which he gladly gave to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Those donations too were deemed bribes for votes for the ULP by disgruntled Vincentians. Despite these harsh criticisms from a particular Vincentian community that just cannot seem to be happy, Dr Gonsalves like the EVER Ready Battery just stays focused and he keeps it moving.

Since that Christmas Day storm, there have been several other unexpected disasters that have affected the nation. I have not heard Dr Gonsalves blame God once for these disasters. He is an extremely intelligent man who knows that in life many unexpected things happen and one can choose to complain or overcome them. He has chosen the intelligent and productive approach to overcome them.

Dr Gonsalves has managed these disasters most effectively and competently, given that the country is not yet a developed country and he has a major undertaking, the building of an international airport, in progress. There is no doubt that these unexpected disasters as well as the global economic decline have adversely affected the timely completion of this international airport. Only a fool would argue otherwise and would not be understanding in this regard.

Managing a country is similar to managing a home, but on a much larger scale. Unless you are a Rockefeller, Rothschild, Bloomberg, Zuckerberg, or some other filthy rich individual, your budget is always insufficient to meet your wants. Therefore, you must prioritise. In prioritising, you plan to achieve some wants now and hopefully you will achieve the others, little, by little later. However, while you are in the process of executing your plan, the car decides to stop working. This car was not even in your budget equation. While you are thinking about how you are going to redirect funds to fix that car or get a new one, you discover that your child needs surgery. These events like natural disasters are unexpected and usually unplanned for because no one can see them coming. But, once they arrive, we must respond to them with utmost priority. Therefore, previous priorities automatically become secondary.

The chronic complainers that continuously highlight the mudslides, the floods, the roads that need fixing and other problems within the country are mostly disingenuous and hypocritical. I am sure that within their households they have something too that needs fixing and that thing must take a backseat to a need that is more pressing. We are all humans, but most of us judge others by a different standard from which we judge ourselves.

Dr Gonsalves is an extremely competent and effective manager. He is overwhelmingly resourceful. If anyone can find the funds to make the impossible possible, he can. He has continuously demonstrated this. He is opening up avenues and byways in St Vincent to move the country from fragmentation and marginalisation. It took exceedingly great vision to do that. In the movie, The Great Escape, which is a depiction of a POW camp in Nazi Germany where both British and American soldiers were being held, there was a character called “The Scrounger,” who could find an oasis in a desert. Dr Gonsalves is “The Vincentian Scrounger,” who continues to make the impossible possible.

Helena R. Edwards

Mount Vernon, NY

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