ST. VINCENT: – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves on Tuesday said his administration did not intend to disrespect citizens by keeping them in the dark on plans to run for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council in October.
“There is no government that respects the people’s opinion like this one but diplomacy cannot be conducted in public. You have to lay the basis for diplomacy in private,” Gonsalves said during his weekly radio programme.
The opposition New Democratic Party has criticised Gonsalves for not informing the Vincentians that his government was discussing with regional and Latin American leaders the possibility that the country would run for the Security Council seat.
“How can we speak to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, without [doing] some ground work? But [Eustace’s] whole purpose is to throw a spanner in the works – lack of patriotism,” Gonsalves said during his weekly radio programme.
It was the first time the prime minister was speaking on the country’s possible candidacy since Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace broke the “disturbing news” last Thursday.
The country’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations promptly issues a press release calling Eustace’s comments “false statements … [that] could adversely affect the implementation of the SVG’s foreign policy and its international standing”.
“What is disturbing if St. Vincent and the Grenadines is considering … to make a bid for the Security Council? That should be cause for celebration, not to [be called] disturbing news,” Gonsalves said.
He said SVG was “yet to decide” if it would make a formal bid and run against Colombia for the seat allocated to the Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC).
Doing so would be “the political equivalent of the sporting achievement of [qualifying] for the world cup finals in football. That should make all Vincentians proud,” Gonsalves said.
He said that should the country be successful, it would receive “immense material benefit … in addition to prestige and a good name”.
The government and opposition have offered different explanations of the motive behind SVG’s possible candidacy.
Eustace believes that SVG is being used in an attempt to undermine Colombia’s chances at winning the as part of the ideological war against the United States.
The battle against “colonialism and imperialism” is being waged by the Venezuela-led Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA), of which SVG, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda are members.
“They (ALBA) don’t like Colombia,” Eustace said.
However, an SVG government document circulated to ALBA leader in Brazil in April said the “proposed candidacy is less a challenge to Columbia than it is an advancement of a principled position on the representation of CARICOM, SIDS [Small Island Developing States] and small states at the upper echelons of multilateral diplomacy”.
The document also said SVG had considered the current GRULAC hopefuls, Colombia and Argentina, and views Colombia the most appropriate to challenge. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)
This is “based on the frequency of Colombia’s participation on the Security Council, the short “turn-around” since its most recent election to the Council, and the likelihood that it will be unable to garner unanimous Latin American support within GRULAC”.
Gonsalves said candidacy for the seat was first suggested to him by his son, Camillo Gonsalves, SVG’s Ambassador to the United Nations.
The suggestion was based on the inquiries of other diplomats at the New York-based international institution, Gonsalves said.
“A number of countries had been inquiring as to whether St. Vincent and the Grenadines should not be on the Security Council.
“There position was simply this: St. Vincent and the Grenadines is an independent voice, a respected voice – under this government, that we are a CARICOM (Caribbean Community) country and CARICOM has not been represented on the Security Council since 1999-2000.
Gonsalves have since discussed the possible candidacy with Organisation of Easter Caribbean States and ALBA leaders.
He is expected to get “a clearer idea” when CARICOM foreign affairs ministers meet in Dominica beginning on Wednesday.
“We have not made a final determination yet. Because we would have to sound out CARICOM and to get other soundings from other governments as to whether we should really go forward in these circumstances,” Gonsalves said.
“There are people who are behaving as if we are handing our hat too high … you have to instil confidence in the people, governments have to act in a positive way.
“… There are a number of leaders who want to behave as though they are petty book keepers. They have no vision. They have no concept of our Caribbean civilisation, our legitimacy, our authenticity so that for Mr Eustace it is disturbing news. For me, it is something natural for us to go for. But we are preparing the ground,” Gonsalves said.
He added: “There is no country, as small as St. Vincent and the Grenadines – 150 square miles or 110,000 people – no country ever so small has been spoken of at the United Nations as becoming a member of the Security Council. …The highest matters of internationally politics are discussed there – issues of war and peace, life and death.”