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Opinion
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Commentary: Election petitions in St Vincent and the Grenadines
Published on July 8, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version

By Wellington C. Ramos

In 2015, before the elections were held in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), Joseph Guerrero and myself were invited by Arnhim Eustace, then leader of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), to conduct a reconnection tour with our Garifuna people in our homeland. While we were there I decided to use the opportunity to hear what our people had to say about the social, economic and political conditions they live in daily.

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Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has BAs in Political Science and History from Hunter College, NY, and an MA in Urban Studies from Long Island University. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science and History
They were unable to tell what their true identity is, because there is no program supported by the government to assist the Garifuna people in regaining their culture. Trish Hill and James Lovell have been doing their best to make this happen without any governmental assistance.

The UN has recommended to the government of SVG to add Garifuna to the census application so that our Garifuna people can proudly identify themselves as to who they are. The government has yet to implement the recommendation. Garifuna peoples’ rights as indigenous people are not being acknowledged in a positive and meaningful way.

Joseph Guerrero and myself visited Sandy Bay and Griggs, which are two of the largest Garifuna communities in SVG. Without any doubt those are my people because I see my relatives in Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and the United States in their faces and I witnessed their actions as well. Our people in the country are dying for the opportunity to regain their cultural roots but are still being denied this fundamental human right. Some of the people who came there afterwards do not even respect them as equal citizens in their own land and that in itself is disrespectful.

Economically, there were many people who are unemployed and wanted jobs but not too many were available. SVG has many farms that produce all types of food products and their population is small so their unemployment situation could be reduced easily. From the food they plant, byproducts could be manufactured in factories that would provide many jobs for all the unemployed people in the country.

Several people indicated to me that they were living in fear to express themselves freely on the political issues that were affecting them. When I asked why, a few of them said that there were some people who were involved in politics that died or mysteriously went missing in St Vincent and the true cause of their deaths or whereabouts is still unknown to their family members.

Another issue that came up was their right to a fair trial in the court system. Some of the issues related to this were unlawful arrest and excessive force being used against them by the police, like what was done to a NDP Senator Vynette Fredrick in the Senate Chamber during a hearing, false charges being brought against them, delay in their cases to be heard while they remain in custody for a long period of time and police brutality. The judicial system is a mess and needs serious reform from the United Nations and other international bodies.

Now, if the judicial system is a mess, how can they have “fair elections”? If an election is stolen the aggrieved candidate or candidates must file their legal petitions through the local courts first. The attorney general, who is the chief law enforcement officer in the country, the commissioners of police, the judges, magistrates and many other high ranking officials are all appointed by the prime minister of the country and they will be reluctant to go against him.

The NDP will need the assistance of Vincentians living at home and abroad, the United Nations, the International Court, CARICOM, OAS, the United States and many other international human rights organizations to win this case. Why? Because, for the Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, it is not just about losing power but what will happen if he was to lose power. This question remains the lingering question on most politicians’ minds who have been in power for too long. Sometimes the feeling of entitlement to remain in office kicks into their minds as well.

The ballot boxes should be sealed after an election and should be kept in safekeeping without any tampering. The people of St Vincent must find out if such is the case since the election was held on December 9, 2015. If they made the mistake and tampered with those ballot boxes, then it will only make it worse for them because the court would come to the conclusion that the boxes were compromised because they stole the election and do not want the people to know the truth.

I support the New Democratic Party with all the efforts they are making to get the true results of this election. If they fail to pursue this case, many of the people in St Vincent and abroad will lose their respect for them. Moreover, it could have a major impact on getting the people to support them in future elections. I will be monitoring the developments along with all the Garifuna people and organizations living in the Diaspora.
 
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