KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 19, IWN — Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace received a tongue lashing on pro-Unity Labour Party radio talk shows and on social media for a story he repeated in New York on the weekend.
Eustace told a town hall meeting organised by the New York chapter of his New Democratic Party that he wanted to give a “follow-up” on a poor woman in Walvaroo, East Kingstown, which Eustace represents.
“The last time I was here speaking in this hall, I gave some examples of some of the difficulties ordinary people are facing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I speak about the poverty and increasing poverty in our country.
“I told you in this hall a story of a lady of my constituency who had gone to a shop and I was in the shop listening to her dealing with the shopkeeper, as I do sometimes…” Eustace said.
He said the woman asked the shopkeeper to credit here a small onion, half a pound of chicken back and neck, and a pound of rice.
“And when she left, the shopkeeper told me that is for 10 people for Sunday,” Eustace said, adding that the three items were for the woman, her husband and their eight children.
“So, I said, ‘How you could divide half pound of back-a-neck between 10 people? You can’t.’ Only to find out that that what she did, they steam it and so on, put it in a muslin cloth and squeeze out the juice on top the rice,” he said to laughter.
“And just as you laugh here now, a lot of people laugh at that. A lot of people laugh for that last time,” Eustace said.
He further said that a week after he returned to St. Vincent, a woman who was in the New York audience contacted him and said she is also from Walvaroo and offered to send a couple of barrels for the impoverished woman.
The former prime minister said he thanked the lady and told her to send the barrels in his name.
“The reason why I did that was that it was not a free barrel and I know she wouldn’t have the money to clear the barrels,” Eustace said of the poor woman in his story.
He said he paid $400 to clear the barrels and asked a friend to deliver them to the woman’s house.
“Two days later, I went to her house to make sure that she had got everything. She said yes and she showed me some of the things in her little kitchen. I said, ‘But I thought is more than this the lady send.’ You know what she did? She shared them with her poor neighbours — 10 of them. She has since go far up in my estimation, anything she asks me to help her with, I will do it. She had great need but she shared with her neighbours who are in difficulty also,” Eustace said.
He said the story speaks also of the amount of sharing that goes on in this country.
“That is how some people survive certain times of the year. That is the level of poverty that we sometimes face and a lot of people face in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
He further told the gathering that some person in this country can only afford to
send their children to school on “shift” — sending some on some days of the week and others on other days.
The story of the woman enraged some persons, who argued that Eustace, for political reasons was trying to make the country look bad.
Others spoke about the probability that the chicken and rice could be divided among 10 people, while others said the woman would have credited more and would have prepared the meal differently.
At least one person said that while such levels of poverty might not be widespread he believes there are instances where it does exist.