There currently exists in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines a crisis in governance. This is due in part to the unsettled and unresolved state of affairs related to the results of the general elections that were held on December 9, 2015 and various troubling events which have come about as a consequence of the mal-administration by the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government of Dr. Ralph Gonsalves that have destabilized constitutional government and democratic processes in the country, coupled with pervasive incidence of evident socio-economic decay, with the off-shoots of joblessness and prevalent serious crime among our youth.
The following is an excerpt of Dr. Friday’s Press Statement in February of 2018; as he dealt with the issues:
The legitimacy of the single seat majority ULP Government is in doubt, due to the widespread electoral irregularities and even fraud, perpetrated on and before Election Day, which have invalidated the results that gave eight seats out of fifteen to the ULP in the elections held on December 9, 2015.
And this state of affairs is being exposed and highlighted in the two election petitions in which candidates of the New Democratic Party (NDP) have challenged this result and which for over two years have been moving at a snail’s pace before the Courts, and in the course of which photographs of the ballot papers used in the elections have been put into evidence, showing that the ballot papers were not designed in compliance with the electoral laws, and the top election officials having made sworn statements admitting that they counted hundreds of illegal ballots in one constituency.
And furthermore, the Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has in an appeal brought by the NDP petitioners, handed down its judgment, in which it found the judge before whom the petitions were heard initially was biased in favour of the respondents (i.e. ULP candidates and Government officials) when he struck out the petitions. The Court of Appeal ordered that they be reinstated and be heard before a different judge.
Anticipating that fresh elections must be called and having previously announced that he would not lead the ULP into another election; PM Gonsalves in a desperate attempt to create a political dynasty, installed his son Mr. Camillo Gonsalves, as Minister of Finance, in preparing him to succeed as Prime Minister despite severe public opposition.
Moreover, widespread domestic, regional and international condemnation and uproar have been waging over recent weeks, as a result of what has been described as a most cynical, manipulative and unethical action by the State, wherein a 23 year old female model of a socially under privileged background, who allegedly had a sexual affair with the Minister of Finance for over three years, was charged with using abusive language to the Minister’s wife and upon the insistence of the prosecution was detained by a Magistrate in a Psychiatric facility for three weeks, ostensibly for evaluation.
Also, our economic situation is dire. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the recent report on the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines paints a bleak picture that confirms the hardship and pain Vincentians have been enduring for the past several years.
The IMF stated that economic growth averaged 0.2 percent over 2009-2016, was expected to remain “relatively flat in 2017” and was expected to grow by a mere 2.1 in 2018. The overall unemployment rate at 25 percent is higher now than it was in 2001, when it was 20.9 percent. More alarming is the finding that the rate of youth unemployment is a staggering 46 percent. Repayment of our external debts increased as commercial loans came due in 2017 (i.e. EC$128million in 2017 up from EC$55million in 2016). Our tourism sector continues to languish, and hope is being extinguished among farmers by inept policies and callous governmental neglect.
Most importantly, there has been an outpouring of public reaction against the unconstitutional ruling which was made by the Speaker of the House of Assembly, urged on by the undemocratic obstruction by the Prime Minister and other ULP Government members, to frustrate and undermine debate on a Motion of No Confidence in the ULP Government, which was tabled by the seven Opposition representatives in the House of Assembly of Assembly.
During the intense exchanges that took place in the House of Assembly on Wednesday January 31, 2018, this outrageous statement was made: –
“Mr. Speaker, with great respect,….I have already said that the opposition can bring a motion of no confidence only if the government acquiesces or agrees.”
“Unless you have this initial step, which has to be overcome, you are going to have chaos in the Parliament….”
These assertions were made by Prime Minister Gonsalves in addressing the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Honourable Jomo Thomas. The Prime Minister was stridently resisting the Speaker’s indication that debate should proceed on the Motion of no Confidence in his Government that was signed by the seven elected Representatives of the Opposition (out of the total of fifteen Representatives in the House). It was the first such Motion of No Confidence to be proposed over the past seventeen years that the NDP has been the Parliamentary Opposition in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Speaker of the House in disagreeing with this absurd contention by the Prime Minister, referred in Hansard (the official records of the House of Assembly), to occasions when the ULP was in the Opposition between 1994 and 2001; (during which time the PM was Leader of the Opposition for the latter two years,) where several motions of no confidence in the NDP government were presented to the House; all of which were debated, including one that went to debate at a time when there were only three elected opposition lawmakers. PM Gonsalves retorted that he was then able to secure a debate, only because the Government acquiesced.
The outcome of his relentless resistance, which ensued over a period of three hours, was that the Prime Minister successfully bludgeoned the Speaker into making a ruling, that thwarted the Opposition’s motion of no confidence via an amendment that effectively flipped the question being proposed, from the House resolving its lack of confidence to a motion by which it was asked to express Full Confidence in his Government.