(Excerpts of Lavern King’s presentation at a virtual Meeting)
I stand here because I am fully aware of the issues that are affecting the youth and women in our country. I stand here as a young person and as a woman knowing how it feels to have done all that family and country ask of you, how it feels to work toward the top but have the system pull you down. I stand here knowing how it feels to sit on the unemployment bench.
The IMF says that 46 percent of our young people are unemployed. That is almost half of us. We live in a country where it seems only the higher-ups and the well-connected are making it, but I am here to present a leader, a man who says that his number one, number two, and number three priority is jobs. Dr. Friday says that he will not rest until he has provided meaningful opportunities for our young people. And this is how I know he means it.
When he learned of the high interest rates on student loans that are currently crippling our young professionals, Dr. Friday set about to research the matter and devised a solution. The resulting New Democratic Party (NDP) policy position is to reduce interest rates on student loans from 8 and 9 percent down to 4 and 5 percent, and those who already have loans will have the opportunity to renegotiate terms. That means more money back in our pockets; more money to invest in house and land; more money to give back to our parents; more money to finally start working towards a more fruitful future.
This is not all. I know that the current YES programme is in need of revision. There are young people on it who are bitterly complaining about the low, exploitative compensation. Dr. Friday has said: “I have heard your cry and I am committed to increasing your monthly stipend from $450 a month to a minimum of $600 a month. That is more money in your pocket!”
I am proud to support a man whose philosophy is built on empowering our people.
In case you didn’t know, a favourite scripture of our party leader is 3 John 1:2 “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” It is time for Vincy youth to prosper; it is time that our people stop being viewed as ‘beggy, beggy’; it is time for our country to work, work, work!
I want to talk to my Vincentian sisters in particular. We have seen the current regime being mum, maintaining a dignified silence when questions of women’s exploitation arise. But let’s face it. Instead of putting in place a real and practical plan to assist abused women, they have also maintained a ‘dignified silence’.
It is evident to me that we have an errant Minister of Gender Affairs. Under his stewardship, that ministry is totally lacking in considered, sober policies aimed at tackling the issues disproportionately affecting women. The gender ministry lacks progressive leadership. We have heard over and over the clips of women screaming and pleading for help; we have seen several videos of women being battered and still no solid plan.
Friends, the NDP says that we will build a home and implement a programme that will support women who are fleeing abusive relationships. This programme will take into consideration the social, psychological and financial constraints of women seeking to leave abusive relationships, and provide adequate support for a specified period of time until each recipient can stand on her own.
We have seen the Unity Labour Party (ULP). We know that they are complacent. They have nothing new to offer to us. The time is now for betterment. To those who have an intention of supporting the ULP, as someone who loves the old hymns, I want to borrow a few lines from Glen Campbell, “When you see your brother falling by the way, just stop and say, you’re going the wrong way.”
If you had any intentions of voting for the ULP, I have stopped by tonight to let you know that you are going the wrong way, and there is a better way, there is a better day that is on our horizon. Friday is coming.
The Neglect of Canouan
Last night, it was said that more than 2 billion EC dollars were collected in revenue from the Canouan Jet Port within the past 19 years or since construction. That’s about 1/2 billion EC dollars every 5 years.
From my understanding, this does not include monies from the sale of lands. It also does not include monies generated through mega yachts, and we know quite a few pass through our waters.
Backed by the continuous advocacy of the Honourable Terrance Ollivierre, Canouan residents and their children had to protest for a secondary school, which was eventually built by the investors. Further, no roads have been built in Canouan since 2001.
Every time I go home to Canouan, I want to weep. Weep, because of the state of our wharf. We are in desperate need of a proper wharf — a critical part of the livelihood of the people of the island.
And with the multi-billion-dollar construction development taking place in Canouan, one would expect that Canouan would have a medical facility, equipped and adequately staffed to deal with accidents and emergencies.
And whilst I am at it, Canouan people can’t get land to buy. We, the youth, have to be ‘cotching’ at and building on our parents’ houses. We are tired! We are sick and tired of the neglect and complacency. How much more can St. Vincent and the Grenadines take? It’s time for the NDP so we can get St. Vincent and the Grenadines working again.