ST. VINCENT: – Former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell has accused Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Sir Edwin Carrington of getting involved in the politics of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), and has expressed his “disgust” in that regard.
Sir Edwin made a one-day visit to St. Vincent on Nov. 22 and media reports last weekend quoted the regional official as praising the Dr Ralph Gonsalves administration in Kingstown for its response to Hurricane Tomas at the end of Oct.
“The capacity was essentially home grown; whether it be housing or farmers and agriculture, school and education or road,” Sir Carrington said during a press conference after a meeting with Gonsalves.
“That, to me, is a measure of preparedness, a measure of resources and a measure of the people’s response,” he further said.
The press conference was jointly hosted by Jeremey Collimore of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and Michelle Forbes, Director of the National Emergency Management Office in Kingstown.
During his visit to St. Vincent, Sir Edwin also said that CARICOM would send a team to observe the Dec. 13 general elections in SVG, although he said he could not say exactly when it would arrive.
But Sir James, who was prime minister for 17 years under the New Democratic Party (NDP), said he was disgusted by the comments made by the high-ranking official.
“I am calling to express my disgust at the behaviour of the Secretary General Sir Edwin Carrington getting involved in St. Vincent’s politics at this stage,” Sir James said in a call to Nice Radio.
“How could the Secretary General be praising the government while the Parliament is dissolved and the CARICOM is sending in an observer mission into this country? Can the Secretary be impartial? Does he appear to be impartial in these circumstances?” Sir James said.
“It is totally disgusting what I saw in Searchlight this morning, the picture of Prime Minister Gonsalves embracing Carrington and Carrington making statements and issuing statements in praise of the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines when CARICOM is putting together an observer mission here. Carrington is discrediting CARICOM with this behaviour,” the retired politician added.
Searchlight last Friday published a photograph of a smiling Carrington in conversation with Gonsalves while Gonsalves’ left hand is on Carrington’s right shoulder.
Eustace: Astaphan ‘out of place’
Meanwhile, NDP president and Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace has described Dominican lawyer Anthony Astaphan as “really out of his place” for comments that he has been making as the campaign for the elections intensifies.
Astaphan, who has represented the Gonsalves administration in several legal matters, appeared on the ruling Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) radio station on Sunday, Nov. 21, and spoke of the achievements of the Gonsalves administration since coming to office in 2001.
He encouraged Vincentians to return the ULP to office for a third consecutive term.
“St. Vincent is at the crossroads. You either are going to continue to go forward or you’re going to vote to go backwards and I don’t think that is a sensible position for anyone to take,” Astaphan said.
But Eustace said that while Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) nations enjoy a good relationship, Astaphan should not dabble in the internal politics of SVG.
“Mr Astaphan is not a Vincentian. And while we have good relations with our OECS countries, Mr Astaphan has no right to be dabbling in our internal affairs in the manner in which he is doing. He has no right to do that at all,” Eustace said on Nice Radio on Saturday, Nov. 27.
He further said that Gonsalves was encouraging Astaphan’s actions.
“He has no right to make those kinds of statement which he is being encouraged by Gonsalves to do so. And that’s where he will get his strength to make the kinds of statements that he is making. If I were to go to Dominica and make those kinds of statements, the Dominican government would not be happy with them. They will arrange to have me deported. But he has the support of Gonsalves so he feels that he is free to say anything about anyone or everybody in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. But he has his day coming, too,” Eustace said.
Eustace further said that Astaphan has benefitted from the ULP government.
“…there is no distinction between the party and the government as far as I am concerned, and he has made money. He has made a lot of money. You know what Mr Astaphan told me in the Boundaries Commission case one day? And he actually said it in the court. That he wish I could be in opposition as long as possible. He actually used those words,” Eustace said.
Astaphan is also representing the government as Eustace sues the Boundaries Commission for alleged constitutional violations.