Protests erupted in the United States of America after a video went viral where it was seen that a white police officer pressed his knees to the neck of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, lying on the ground, forcing his face on the pavement until he was unresponsive. During the ordeal he cried, “I can’t breathe”. ‘I can’t breathe’ has now become the chant during protests in the USA and around the world. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Unity Labour Party (ULP) regime has wrapped its tentacles around the necks of Vincentians forcing them to scream ‘We can’t breathe’.
The ill-advised policies of the ULP regime and the mismanagement of the country’s economy have created severe hardship for Vincentians thus, creating an environment which makes it extremely difficult for them ‘to breathe’. They are having difficulties sending their children to school, they can’t pay their bills, most of the homes are without internet, cost of living has skyrocketed and unemployment is rampant.
The unemployment rate in St. Vincent and the Grenadines stands at 25 percent according to the IMF. This is worse than it was in 2001, when the ULP came to power. At that time, it stood at 20.9 percent. Today, the youth 15-24 years unemployment rate is estimated to be a staggering 46 percent. The youth are groaning, ‘We can’t breathe’. They need jobs. We recall during the 2001 general elections campaign, the ULP promised the youth that they would have provided thousands of jobs, quality jobs; they are still waiting for those jobs. They are at home frustrated.
Despite the importance of agriculture to the economy of this country, the government has systematically destroyed the agricultural sector. It is amazing today, during the COVID-19 pandemic and the approaching general elections, the government is talking favorably about agriculture. The ULP administration policies have forced many established farmers out of agriculture, and vast areas of formerly highly productive land are now abandoned. Even a cursory examination of our rural areas reveals a deteriorating situation, where large sections of land, previously deemed part of the national food-basket, are now under-utilized.
Most Vincentians continue to live in fear of political victimization, a weapon used by the ULP regime against our freedom of expression, our freedom of conscience and our freedom to associate. We think about Marcus Defreitas, Paul ‘I Madd’ Scrubb, Leon ‘Bigger Biggs’ Samuel, Otto Sam, Luzette King, Vynette Fredericks, Jamali Whyte, Collin Graham, Jozette Bowens, Ordan Graham, and recently Kenson King. These are some of the persons over the years who have suffered under this vindictive ULP government forcing them to cry, ‘We can’t breathe’.
We cannot forget the three teachers, Kenroy Johnson, Elvis Daniel and Addison ‘Bash’ Thomas who contested the 2010 general elections for the NDP. The ULP government and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union signed a collective agreement. Article 16 of the agreement says a member of the union of at least three years standing, shall on application, be granted leave of absence to contest national, general and local elections. The leave shall be no-pay leave for a period not exceeding six months. If that member does not win the election, he or she shall return to his or her original post or one of equivalent status, all benefits intact. The matter was challenged in the court, the teachers won their case. The state has refused to pay pension and cost as ordered by the court. They are still crying, ‘We can’t breathe’.
For Vincentians ‘to breathe’, we must get rid of the ULP government and elect the New Democratic Party to office. The ULP government is bankrupt of ideas. The leader, Dr. Gonsalves, is tired and out of touch with the people. The New Democratic Party has the programmes and policies to make St. Vincent and the Grenadines work for all Vincentians.
NDP mourns with fire victims families
We in the New Democratic Party (NDP) are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of the three burn victims in the Union Island gas station fire. Lindani Neverson and Zara Alexander will be buried on Sunday 7th June, Mr. Naert was buried during the week.
The fire occurred at the gas station in Clifton, Union Island on Tuesday evening May 19, 2020. The owner of the gas station 72-year old Freddy Naert, and teenagers 14-year old Lindani Neverson and 17-year old Gra-niqua Azaria Alexander, were seriously injured in the fire and were transported to Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in Kingstown for emergency medical treatment. Last Sunday, May 24th, both Freddy Naert and Lindani Neverson died at MCMH. Later that day, Azaria Alexander was flown to Trinidad for further treatment. Last evening, Wednesday May 27th, she too succumbed to her injuries.
Our deepest condolences go out to the families of the victims. This tragedy is a hard blow for the family members. They need our prayers and support in this extremely difficult time. We mourn with them. No doubt, their community of Union Island and the entire nation share their loss.
The Honourable Terrance Ollivierre, Member for Southern Grenadines, who has been in regular and close contact with the families of the teenaged victims, commented, “I am truly at a loss for words. My heart hurts for all the families. This is such a tragedy and I know that all the people of Union Island are hurting right now. We must pray for everyone”.
President of the NDP, Dr. Hon. Godwin Friday stated, “I am heartbroken! I pray for the families and for the community. They need our love and support.”
The NDP urges that there be a full investigation into the cause of the fire, the efforts to combat it, and of the transportation and treatment of the burn victims. As Dr. Friday has stated, “We need to find answers and to learn from this tragedy. A full investigation is a necessary part of that process.”