ST. VINCENT: – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves might have changed the election date at the last moment Sunday night, a copy of his prepared speech obtained by I Witness-News on Monday suggests.
On the contrary, he might have purposely communicated information to suggest to Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace that the elections would have been held on December 15, as Eustace told supporters of his New Democratic Party (NDP) on Saturday, Nov. 13.
What is official is that Vincentians will elect a new government on December 13, as announced by Gonsalves at a Unity Labour Party (ULP) rally in Calliaqua on Sunday, Nov. 14.
Parliament would be dissolved on Monday, Nov. 15, while election candidates are to be officially nominated on Nov. 26, Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves and his ULP, which first came to office in March 2001 is vying for a third consecutive term in office.
Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace also said at the NDP rally in Sion Hill on Saturday that Parliament would be dissolved on Nov. 15 and the general elections would be held on Dec. 15.
“If Gonsalves change that date, he change it tonight. And he is intending to announce it tomorrow. … And, if he change it, I will know!” Eustace said.
But Gonsalves said on Sunday that he had called the “bluff” that resulted in Eustace announcing Dec. 15 at the elections date, saying that no one would ring the election bell for him.
Gonsalves told journalists on Monday that while he had prepared a speech, he “spoke to it rather than to read it because in a rally it is very difficult to read a speech”.
Photographs show that the document from which Gonsalves read on Sunday clearly has blank spaces for the relevant dates.
Gonsalves placed the speech on the shoulder of his wife Eloise Gonsalves as he scribbled in the dates after making what some have interpreted as an extra effort to convince his audience that Eustace was wrong.
However, a copy of the speech sent to I Witness-News by a member of Gonsalves’ media relations team on Monday shows the date of the elections as December 15.
Gonsalves told reporters on Monday about his informing the Governor General about the dissolution of Parliament and the election date.
He said that while the Constitution said the head of state has to be informed, it did not say how.
“… I had spoken to him before about broadly what I was thinking about that I would be calling on him to dissolve in a broad period. And I spoke to him more specifically when I made up my mind that it was the 13th [of December]. And, for his records, I put it in writing – ‘…further to our telephone conversation of such and such a date I now confirm the following….’ You know, that is how I did it in 2005. And that is how I do it,” Gonsalves said at a press briefing.
Gonsalves said he had to ensure that the Attorney General knew about the dates because she has to prepare the instruments which the governor general has to sign.
“And then the attorney general has to interface with the supervisor of elections because there are certain things which have to be done with the returning officers….
“Certain documents have to be published today in the Gazette and having been published on the radio and then appearing in the newspaper, I would expect in Searchlight tomorrow in terms of particular formal announcements, those which have been made in the Gazette. That is the process,” Gonsalves said.
He said that while the Attorney General “would have alerted the government printer … the amount of time she gives the printer would be in her judgment without in any way violating the quote unquote confidentiality of the information which I would have relayed to her and would have agreed upon with his Excellency the Governor General. That’s the process,” Gonsalves said.
At the rally on Sunday, Gonsalves seemed to making an extra effort to convince his supporters and radio and internet audiences that Eustace had got the election date wrong.
“Today, I formally advised His Excellency the Governor General that Parliament be dissolved on November 15th. Nomination Day will be November 26th. General Elections will be held on December 15th,” the speech read.
The question then is: Did Gonsalves change the date after Eustace’s announcement or did Eustace fall for Gonsalves’ trap? You be the judge. (See poll at end of post)
Following is an extract from the relevant sections of Gonsalves’ speech, as prepared.
Except for the election date, the variation are in terms of the words and analogies he used and not in content and substance.
Extract from Gonsalves’ prepared speech as sent to I Witness-News on Monday Nov. 15, 2010.
“It has been drawn to my attention that at a public meeting last night, the Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace, was thumping his chest with a vain boast that the NDP run things because someone informed him about the alleged dates for Parliament’s dissolution and the General Elections. How pathetic! If they are in charge why does he not send the “requisite legal instruments to the Governor General? Why does he not advise the Governor General on Parliament’s dissolution and activate the electoral machinery for General Elections? Eustace is engaged in the kind of empty boastfulness reserved for children. Only childish people or those intoxicated with illusions of grandeur boast vaingloriously about these matters as Eustace did. He could prattle; but the power of the Most High fall on I; and it is I who act, not merely talk. The Good Book says:
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought like a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”
“The dates which I chose for the dissolution of Parliament and General Elections were so chosen after prayer consideration and divine guidance. Eustace should heed the wisdom of Psalms Chapter 12, Verse 3: “May the Lord cut off their flattering lips and silence their boastful tongues”. Mark my words, before the end of this campaign, at least one calamity would befall the NDP. I say no more on this.
“I remind Comrades, friends, and citizens about an instance of attempted political one-upmanship in Dominica in November last
year, but with one difference, the opposition in that country got it right, but Eustace now got it wrong. The opposition in Dominica had apparently hacked into a computer and obtained the entire announcement speech of that country’s Prime Minister, three hours before he was due to deliver it. That speech contained, among other things, the dates for dissolution and general elections. The Opposition in Dominica, just as in St. Vincent and the Grenadines last night, reveled vaingloriously in what they though was a major scoop. In effect, it was of no moment. At the polls, the opposition received an election drubbing; the ruling Dominica Labour Party won an historic landslide victory. Clearly, Eustace did not absorb that lesson; his recklessness last night shows the desperation of a gambler who knows that he has a losing hand. I call his bluff. He must know that i-man hold all the aces. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines the NDP will receive the electoral beating of its life. You and I will ensure it!
“For all his dramatic posturings, bluff, vanities, and empty boats, I must tell you simply that Eustace got the general elections date wrong! He wanted he newspaper headline. Now he has one: Eustace calls the date wrong! He is really a foolish and inexperienced politician; a reckless bull in the proverbial china shop!
“In 2005, Parliament was dissolved on November 7th and General Elections were on December 7th. This year, 2010, we are having General Elections again in December. Today, I formally advised His Excellency the Governor General that Parliament be dissolved on November 15th. Nomination Day will be November 26th. General Elections will be held on December 15th. The Honourable Attorney General is ensuring that all the relevant legal instruments are in place.
“Neither the Mitchell Junta nor the NDP has ever won general elections in December. They lost in December 1974, in December 1979, and in December 2005. They will lose ever more disastrously in December 2010 than they did in 2005. Our great Party, the ULP, will be triumphant yet again, but we will never exhibit a triumphalist attitude. In the ensuing campaign, be assured always that the ULP would be most sensitive to the fact that our country and large numbers of our people are suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas.
“On August 22, 2010, I asked you, the people, at Mt. Bentinck to “own the campaign”. You have been doing so magnificently. You must redouble your efforts. Please ensure that everyone in your family who is 18 years of age, registers to vote. Please make sure that your friends are registered to vote. Canvass your neighbours, your co-workers, and your college mates to vote for the ULP. We have built up in this country a natural majority for the ULP. If all the ULP supporters vote, we would sweep the elections hugely. Do not stay away from the polls to teach your representative or candidate a lesson because of this or that personal issue. Look at the big picture. The ULP government has been very good to, and for, the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Do not try to be a Samson and pull the temple down on everybody’s heads, including your own. This ULP government has delivered benefits and opportunities to everyone, to every family, to every community. Defend your gains and vote the ULP.
“Please be assured that you are in my prayers always. I thank you for keeping me in your prayers, too. Let us work together meaningfully for another five years. I pray for God’s blessings upon us all.