The three political parties hoping to contest the December 9 general elections here have signed a code of conduct drawn up by church officials in St Vincent and the Grenadines and administered by the National Monitoring and Consultative Mechanism (NMCM).
The SVG Green Party did not sign the Code, but sent two persons to observe the proceedings.
But the signing on Tuesday allowed for the two main political parties –the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) and the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) – to accuse each other of seeking to encourage violence in the campaign.
“I am telling you, Father Mike (Monsignor Mike Stewart), being 15 years in opposition is not easy. And men who want to come in power will do desperate things,” ULP and Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said.
His comments came immediately after he spoke about a bottle-throwing incident in Petit Bordel on Friday during which the ULP candidate for North Leeward, Carlos James fired off a gun to quell the crowd.
Gonsalves blamed the NDP for the incident.
“And to have another five years in opposition, particularly with some men there is no women on the slate of the NDP when you are in your late 50s and your 60s or, God forbid, if you pass the three score and ten, is a nightmare and desperation sets in,” said Gonsalves, whose ULP is seeking an unprecedented fourth consecutive term in office.
Gonsalves also trained his guns on the leader and founder of the Democratic Republican Party (DRP), Anesia Baptiste, who, he said should not be “so desperate.
“She is a young woman with a tremendous future ahead of her; a good woman,” Gonsalves said of Baptiste, 35, a former member of both the ULP and the NDP.
“And desperate men will do desperate things. I’m not saying that all desperate men do all desperate things. And I am not saying that because you are likely to have another five years in opposition that you would be desperate,” the Prime Minister said. “But history has shown that there is a greater tendency for somebody who has been in opposition for a long time and who faces that prospect of another five years in opposition, there is a greater likelihood of desperation.
“I am not levelling a charged against anybody, I am just laying the context,” said Gonsalves adding that normally political parties would sign the code of conduct, exchange pleasantries and go about their business.
“I’m sorry that given what has transpired thus far, I thought it necessary and desirable to say more than the pleasantries so that people can hear my voice and they can hear my assurances,” he said, adding “I want to end with this: I love every single member of the NDP who is contesting elections. I tell you that with the purest of heart. I love them”
But NDP chairman Dr. Linton Lewis, who spoke at the function, said he was happy to hear that the Prime Minister loves everyone, adding, “but I don’t know that he loves me… “But I appreciates that he does or that he says he does,” Lewis said, pointing out that Gonsalves had earlier noted that desperate men do desperate things and that it is not easy to be in opposition for 15 years.
“It is not easy, financially, for individual candidates. But I have been a cricketer for number of years and we win some and we lose some. We understand that we can’t win all of them. That is etched in my consciousness.
“To be fair, even though a bowler bowls bouncers at me and he hits me in the chest, at the end, in the night, we have cocktails and it’s as if nothing ever happened. So I understand that,” said Lewis, a former national cricketer, who has failed three times to win a seat in the St. George’s constituencies.
“But I also wish to say that the Prime Minister understands full well also what it is like to be opposition for over 17 years,” Lewis said of Gonsalves who contested several elections before winning a seat.
“So, he understands the desperation and can speak to it. And that is reflected in the manner in which, in 2000, the roads were blocked and the efforts were made to make this country ungovernable by the then ULP administration to hasten the electoral process prematurely to have elections in 2001.”
In 2000, political unrest caused the NDP, which won a fourth consecutive term in the 1998 elections by a one-seat majority, to agree to early elections, resulting in the party being voted out of office, after 17 years.
Nomination Day for the December 9 general election is November 20.