On Monday, March 28, 2022, the Unity Labour Party celebrated 21 years since being elected to run the affairs of this country, a feat never before achieved in our land. An accompanying and similarly remarkable achievement, was celebrated by Comrade Ralph – that of 21 years of unbroken leadership as Prime Minister, the only such record in the whole of the independent CARICOM. Such an achievement by the ULP speaks to the quality of leadership provided over the years, and the confidence that Vincentians continue to express in that leadership.
The 21 years comprised of 5 General Elections, all won by the ULP even as this country faced challenges of the 2008 global financial crises and a 2020 Covid-19 pandemic or local natural disasters of Hurricane Tomas in 2010, the December 2013 flood, and the 2021 eruption of La Soufriere. Any of those events could have seriously disrupted and retarded the development of any country, but SVG has had to deal with the full combination of all over the period and has come out stronger and more resilient. Even the attempts at obstruction by the parliamentary opposition, that enlisted the assistance of passport-selling mind-benders who used misinformation, slander and eventually violent protests in the streets of Kingstown, couldn’t stop the ULP from achieving this remarkable milestone.
As our ULP celebrates 21 years, we must of necessity reflect on the gains we’ve made despite the challenges faced and look forward with hope to where we intend to take our country. We remain committed to our solemn pledge to lift SVG higher, but implementing programmes that will improve the lives of every Vincentian and keep our country on the path to sustainable development.
Honouring those who started the journey
In 2021, when the voters of this country fired a corrupt and out of ideas NDP, with the same action they hired a team of competent individuals who were ready and prepared for the task ahead. The job of jumpstarting a stagnant economy, lifting our country out of poverty, repairing our global reputation that was severely battered and bruised and engendering a new hope for the future among citizens was the number one priority for the newly installed executive. Lead by political leader comrade Ralph.
The 12 elected representatives, victorious in constituencies from North Leeward to North Windward (except in East Kingstown where the NDP eked out a narrow victory against Michael Hamlet) were ready to get on with the business of government. As we celebrate the 21st Anniversary of being elected into office we make honourable mention of the 15 candidates who contested the 2001 General Elections: Comrade Ralph, Dr. Jerrol Thompson, Sir Louis Straker, Dr. Douglas Slater, Rene Baptiste, Conrad Sayers, Michael Hamlet (deceased), Mike Browne, Girlyn Miguel, Clayton Burgin, Sir Vincent Beache (deceased), Selmon Walters, Montgomery Daniel, Cosmos Cozier and Edwin Snagg.
These 15 men and women who had served this country in various capacities previously, decided to take on a higher level of service to country and people and began this journey of transforming SVG, making it a better place for our people. Many other comrades worked hard to ensure the victory in 2001, many are alive and some have passed on, but this great party remains ever grateful to all those who believed in the vision and worked to ensure that the vision became a reality. We celebrate 21 years later with 9 seats in parliament, among which are Comrade Ralph and Comrade Gomery two members from the original 12, who continue to provide experienced guidance and leadership to the new group of future leaders who will continue the great work began in 2001.
The people’s victory
Following the elections victory, many Vincentians remarked publicly about the feeling of relief felt across the country, as if a weight had been lifted from around their necks. Truth be told, this country was being weighed down by rampant corruption, abject poverty, an education system that was failing our people, a decaying democracy that kept the meetings of the Parliament a secret, allowing draconian laws to be enacted and many other realities that kept our citizens in bondage.
Since the General Elections of 1998, the people of this country tried their best to rid themselves of a regime that had clearly lost its way, as 55% of the votes cast were in favour of the ULP, but our First-Past-the-Post parliamentary type of governance was unable to accommodate this resounding response since this majority was only able to secure 7 seats in parliament. The disappointment felt by our people including the various sectors of workers who felt the stagnation in their development, was too much to bear for another 5 years and created serious unease in this country.
It wasn’t long before public sector workers, locked in negotiations with the government recognised that the new term brought nothing new from the same old regime, and something had to be done if their lives were to be improved. What occurred after is well known as massive protests erupted with teachers, nurses, public sector and other workers, took to the streets to demand more from the government; they wanted more, they deserved more and were not prepared to accept the contempt and disrespect shown them by the NDP.
It is clear as day, that since 1998, the people started a movement to rid our beloved country of the NDP and though unsuccessful then, they remained determined, resolute to be the agents of the change they sought. The election result in 2001 was a clear statement from the people; it was the coming alive of their dreams and hopes, a new day, a new reality for all Vincentians, where the elected government would work to make Vincentians lives better.
Twenty-one years later, we celebrate our first electoral victory, recognising that this was the people’s victory, we thank the people of this country for the honour and privilege given us to serve them, and pledge our commitment to continue the great work we started 21 years ago.