No one should, therefore, underestimate what the NDP means to our nation. It is not just a longstanding political party founded by James F. Mitchell and his early fellow travellers in 1975; it is that and much more. It is the vehicle for hope, dreams and efforts of all those who wish to see a brighter day in our country.
Sir James Passing
Last year on November 23rd, we lost our founder and first leader Sir James F. Mitchell. That was a hard blow for us. All through the years, since the founding of the NDP in 1975, he was always present, in one way or another. This is the first convention that our great party is having that Sir James did not organize or was present at or followed from at home or elsewhere.
Thankfully, Sir James had a vision for the NDP as a lasting institution for doing good in our country. He did not create the NDP to be his personal soapbox to be taken away with him when he left the stage. No, he made sure that this great party would survive him and thrive with him and after him. Because it was not essentially about him; it was about the people and the country. If in the NDP, he could create a lasting force for good, he would have served the people well and that service would continue long after he had departed the stage, and after Eustace and Dr. Friday and their contemporaries have also passed the baton to others.
In my tribute to him delivered at his funeral in Kingstown on December 18th, among other things, I said this: “Sir James was a visionary of great ability and courage. So much of the political work that he did in those early years before he had an organization to support him depended on his determination and on his skill in motivating people to join his cause. He travelled to every village across the country… with trusted friends and fellow dreamers. Those efforts laid the political foundation upon which he stood for many years after.”
Today, we stand proudly on the legacy he built with the NDP in and out of government. We will protect that legacy because it is important for our party and for our country. We must long remember how he served and built this nation for it is only in doing so that we truly honour that service and properly write our history. We will not let others define it for us. More importantly, we will not let anyone misrepresent or tarnish it for their own petty ends.
Hon. Arnhim Eustace
I say a special welcome to the Honourable Arnhim Eustace, our esteemed and beloved immediate past leader. Arnhim, your hard work and devotion to the NDP and to your country are praiseworthy and beyond question. I am proud to be standing on your shoulders today, to be carrying the baton you carried so well for us for so many years. We are grateful to you, my friend and colleague, for your example of selfless service and love of country.
Living with COVID
COVID-19 remains the biggest problem for the country. The government has mishandled it from the start. First, they gave the impression it was nothing too serious and would soon pass. They scoffed at the precautions being taken in neighbouring countries and at proven methods of reducing spread of COVID-19 disease. Then, all of a sudden, they adopted draconian measures that unjustly stigmatised and penalized segments of the workforce in the public service, nurses, and police.
Hardworking teachers, public servants and police officers who have served this country for 10, 15, 30 years were treated like disposable beings, of no great value to their organizations. How can you replace a worker of such great experience and skill by someone with little training and no experience and the places of work not suffer?
The country lost valuable workers, the people they served lost their valuable skills. But the government did not care. It was their way or the highway. People are still on the bread line because they would not obey the government dictate that would force them to vaccinate or lose their jobs. How heartless and cruel can they be? Do they really believe that anyone would casually risk illness and death from COVID-19 by choosing to not vaccinate if they were not seriously concerned about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine?
It is time for this government to do an about face on this matter. Admit they were wrong and allow the people who were fired or forced into retirement to return to work with all their benefits intact. The longer this unbearable state of affairs continue the greater the injustice becomes. All over the world, governments and businesses have retreated from the policy of making workers choose between their jobs and vaccination. The government in SVG, forever out of step with common practice and conventional wisdom, continues to persecute the unvaccinated and make them scapegoats for the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is required to help us to get out of this pandemic is proper information and discussion based on science and trust. Unfortunately, the people of this country do not trust the ULP government. Without trust, they resort to threats and to mandating vaccination.
How ironic it is that the ULP leaders and political acolytes were preaching lies against the NDP during the last election by trying to frighten public servants into believing their lies about the NDP cutting jobs when now we see that it is the ULP government that is taking away jobs.
However, I have said it before and will say it again; an NDP government will correct this injustice and ensure the people penalized and victimized by the heartless no-vaccine, no-job policy will get back their jobs and benefits, as they choose.
(Excerpts of Dr. Friday’s Address at the party’s 42nd Annual Convention)