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Wednesday evening was like a mini-carnival as thousands of jubilant New Democratic Party (NDP) supporters flooded the streets of capital, Kingstown in a candlelight protest against the controversial cross country road project.

The protest action was part of a programme of activities announced by the opposition party aimed at stopping the multi-million dollar project, part of which has been sub-contracted to Franco Construction, a company owned by the brothers of government minister, Julian Francis, who has responsibility for the cross country road.{{more}}

The NDP continued its call for the resignation of Francis, chanting “Julian Must Go”! They expressed concerns that the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration is adamant that the project should go ahead even in the absence of an Environmental Impact Study.

However, speaking at the opening of the St. Vincent Electricity Services (VINLEC) Safety Week on Monday, Francis, under whose portfolio VINLEC falls, reaffirmed his government’s commitment to the project. He stated lightheartedly that Vinlec will have “a lot of work to do planting poles” along the cross country road.

The NDP had issued a battle cry, threatening an intensified campaign against the government’s intention to construct the road, if Wednesday’s protest proved futile. They promised to “bring the town to a standstill”.

But even as the NDP called for serious political actions, the leadership has challenged its Young Democrats to be in the vanguard of the party’s quest to return to power.

Party chairman Jeremiah Scott issued the opening challenge in his remarks at the Young Democrats’ convention at party headquarters Sunday. He at the time chided the Young Democrats for the late start of their convention.

“The Young Democrats today is not the same Young Democrats that used to be years ago. It is as though our young people no longer are interested, or maybe we are not showing that interest in them. It is a sad reflection of the state of this great party, particularly so on the eve of the mother of all elections.”

He said there must be a significant role to be played by the Young Democrats and the young people in general of this State. “If you allow another five years of Ralph Gonsalves and the ULP in this country,” he said, “I don’t think the New Democratic Party will be in a position to help you, to save you, to inspire you or to get you away. You would be dead, politically.”

Scott added that the election to come is not so much about party as it is about people.

Party president Arnhim Eustace also took a broadside at the Young Democrats, voicing his disappointment at the late start of the convention.

“We are in a two-party race where second means last. And second means that we remain out of office. It is time that we take the time to organise properly and in detail, for all the things that we have to do. I cannot stress this enough. We cannot afford to have disorganisation attending our functions. I don’t care who it is. It is something we just cannot afford,” Eustace said.

Eustace said he believed Scott was right when he said the next elections would be the mother of all elections because it is going to have a fundamental impact on the future of this country.

He told them that the future was theirs and as young Vincentians, they are the ones who would be leading this country in the not-too-distant future.

“Let us take our task seriously as Young Democrats and as a political party. There is no time is left to be on the sidelines. No time left for us to be disorganised.

“We have to move forward from this morning with the vision and with vigour if the New Democratic Party is to win the next general elections. I know that we can win. I know we can win. Because, the people are fed up of the Unity Labour Party. But, it is not just a matter of being fed up. We have to win over those persons who did not vote for us the last time if we are to win. And therefore they must see us as serious about our business. They must see us as committed to making change in this country of ours,” Eustace said.

The party president charged the new executive of the Young Democrats with the responsibility of holding their own public political meetings dealing not only with issues that confront the youth, but also with issues which confront the nation. He told them the meeting would have to be organised and run by the Young Democrats.

“I want to see the Young Democrats having a major voice in the next general elections … Because, the youth votes are the largest single block of votes. And if you can’t influence your peers, those who are young like you, then you have no right to have on that yellow jersey,” Eustace said.

The president said if the new executive of the Young Democrats could not rise to the challenge “then they can’t do anything”. He added that if they are not able to hold a public meeting then they won’t be able to govern.