Christmas Address: Dr. The Honourable Godwin Friday, Leader of the Opposition

Fellow Vincentians, Friends.

As Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and as President of the New Democratic Party, it is an honour and a great privilege for me to speak with you at this special and wonderful time that is Christmas, the season of hope and goodwill to all.

My family and I wish you God’s blessing, and glad tidings of the season. I pray that God will richly bless us all and keep us from harm and ill.

I know that for many of us, this year has brought enormous challenges and heartbreaking setbacks. That it has brought frustrations and stagnation. However, this special time must inspire us all to carry forward the message of faith and hope. Faith that by the Grace of God as a people working together, we will find the way forward; and hope that tomorrow and the immediate future will be better and brighter for all of us.

Amidst the merriment and joy that come with the observance of Christmas, it is important that we all find time for reflection and renewal. That we find time to renew our human spirit and recommit ourselves to the tasks ahead. Those of us who have been given good fortune and certain privileges must reach out to those less fortunate in our communities. Everyone of us must brighten up our own corner of our land so that collectively we will bring light to our nation.

In a year of missed opportunities and misplaced priorities, it is easy to give in to the gloom and doom and to slide into despair. Whether it be the state of high unemployment in our country or the pervasiveness of corruption in government and elsewhere, or the alarming reports of murder and other serious crimes in our land, we must not yield to doubt and to despair. We must not give in to those things. Rather, the hope must perpetually spring within us that together we can and WILL make a difference; that together we will make things better here in our beloved country.

As the Bible says in the Book of Joshua: “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous.” This time of the year calls us to be ready to march into the future; a future in which we must embrace the opportunities and indeed possibilities.

While we celebrate Christmas, and look forward in hope to the New Year, let us especially remember those who have been directly affected by the recent extreme weather conditions in our country. The heavy rains, floods, landslides and erosion have displaced many people and disrupted many lives. We have all seen the horrific pictures of devastation in Sandy Bay and also of the damage caused in Rose Bank and Petit Bordel and other communities, and to our public roads and bridges.

With my colleagues, I visited all those communities immediately after the most recent flood and saw firsthand how the affected people are suffering. Thank God that no lives were lost in the most recent flood! The condition of the people directly affected, no doubt, has added to the general feeling of gloom that pervades our land. However, we must pull together. To the people directly affected by the floods and who are still hurting very badly, I say– we are with you. We will not forget you even in this season of joy, for we cannot be happy knowing of your loss and pain. And we will not forget you next year when the rains have stopped and other priorities demand our attention. My party, the New Democratic Party, has made appeals for assistance on your behalf and has already delivered some food, water and clothing to the people in Sandy Bay. I promise you we will continue to help you to the best of our ability.

In this time of giving, we also empathize with workers at the Ottley Hall Shipyard and the Buccament Bay Resort, who this season must deal with lack of payment of wages and salaries and outright disrespect from the management of their companies. Those workers have put in the time, even in adverse circumstances, and deserve to be paid what is theirs, what they have earned, their wages. The government has a role to play in ensuring that they get their money and must act with urgency and commitment to see that it is done now. We will have to come together and recommit ourselves in the New Year to finding lasting and just solutions to these problems.

Our philosophy in the parliamentary Opposition and in the New Democratic Party is that the uncaring politics of spite must be replaced with a deepening sense of community and solidarity. The focus of our efforts must always be on the needs of our people. That is why I have committed my party to building a broad coalition of conscious and patriotic Vincentians who are willing and able to take a resolute stand against crime, violence, poverty, corruption and poor governance. That is why in the Parliament my colleagues and I will hold he government accountable for the many problems that confront us. I invite you to join us on this journey that will bring change and renewal to our land. Remember, when there is unity and love among the people, as the Bible says in the Book of Job: “The poor will have hope and injustice will shut its mouth.”

Finally, as for me, I believe in a better and brighter future for our people and the Christmas season strengthens me in that belief, and fills me with hope that we can bring it into being soon. So, in this season and beyond, let us reach out to one another and share. It is never too little or too late to give from the heart to your neighbour and friend. Let us bring the entire Vincentian community together. Let us be thankful to God for allowing us to inhabit this beautiful land that he has given to us and for sending his son to reminds us how special we are to him. Let’s wrap ourselves not in doubt and despair but in the garment of praise

From the bottom of my heart, I wish you a peaceful and prayerful Christmas and New Year.

May God bless you and our entire nation!

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