ST. VINCENT: – A lawyer for Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves have demanded that SVG TV, the nation’s leading television station, along with Arnhim Eustace and his New Democratic party (NDP), apologize and pay him damages and legal cost or be sued for a video broadcast by the station on Tuesday, Dec. 7.
Margaret Parsons, a Vincentian-Canadian human rights lawyer, details in the video an alleged sexual assault on her by Gonsalves six or seven year ago.
In the video, which is also circulated on YouTube, Parsons said that the alleged incident occurred at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingstown when she went to discuss human rights issues with him during the Constitution review exercise.
In March 2008, Parsons instituted private criminal proceedings in St. Vincent against Gonsalves but the Director of Public Prosecutions discontinued the inquiry for a lack of evidence. Parsons’ lawyers did not challenge the DPP’s ruling.
Her accusation had come two months after a female member of Gonsalves’ security detail said he raped her at his official residence in Old Montrose, Kingstown.
The DPP also discontinued that case for a lack of evidence and lawyers for the cop failed in several attempts to have the case heard by the nation’s courts.
Gonsalves’ lawyer, Grahame Bollers, in a letter to SVGTV, Eustace, and the NDP, said that while Parsons had said that she came forward to support the policewoman, she did not say that she was aggrieved because Gonsalves did not aid her in purchasing a property from the National Commercial Bank (NCB) in Union Island.
“Now, in the dying days of an election campaign in which the NDP is yet to publish a manifesto, SVGTV has allowed itself to be abused and misused in broadcasting Ms Parsons’ false and malicious defamatory allegations,” the lawyer said.
He said the video is “clearly an NDP-sponsored distraction intended to draw attention away from their state of unreadiness” ahead of the general elections next Monday, Dec. 13.
“This reeks of the vile and putrid stench of the NDP’s Ralph-hating campaign, which has been relentless and ongoing for over ten years, but which, in the recent years, has sunk to irrational and dangerous lows,” he added.
The lawyer said that had SVGTV been “more careful and professional” they would have discovered that NDP operatives recently asked a Vincentian journalist to travel to Canada to conduct the interview but he refused after consulting his family.
He further said that Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), the NDP’s campaign managers, then “arranged an ‘independent’ though paid interviewer”.
The lawyers further said that a “cursory background check” of Parson on the Internet would have revealed that she “has a history of making false allegations, seeking to manipulate the press for her own purposes, and of behaving irrationally when she does not get her own way”.
“My client is amazed that SVGTV would have allowed itself to be conned in this matter,” the lawyer said.
NDP president Eustace spoke of Parsons’ video during an NDP Press conference on Wednesday, Dec. 8.
“I also have watched with interest the Margaret Parsons interview that has appeared online. And this just a day after Eloise Gonsalves posted a political video claiming all allegations against her husband were falsehoods,” Eustace said.
“A very disappointing day for politics in this country,” he added.
In an unprecedented public utterance about politics in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), Mrs Gonsalves appeared in a video asking Vincentians to “punish” the NDP when they vote.
“I am saddened and disgusted by the NDP’s vicious lies about my husband,” she said in the video which is posted on the ULP’s YouTube channel.
Several comments accusing Gonsalves of inappropriate sexual conduct have been deleted from the video in which Mrs Gonsalves appear.
Dominican senior counsel Anthony Astaphan, a lawyer for Gonsalves and the ULP administration, said last week that the rape allegations against Gonsalves will resurface as the elections draw nearer.
“If you are going to make an allegation about somebody, you must be able when sued or when challenged to present the evidence…” he cautioned then.
Speaking on Star FM, the ULP’s station, late Wednesday, Astaphan noted that Parsons never challenged the DDP’s ruling against her.
“Then she waits until the week of an election to produce a video tape for New Democratic Party, simply to embarrass Ralph Gonsalves, when she had told a series of lies to try to incriminate him because she was dissatisfied with the fact that he refused to assist her in purchasing the land in the Grenadines,” said Astaphan, who will host a press conference on behalf of the ULP on Thursday.
“It is dishonest, it is scandalous and the lawyers who attended that press conference will hear from us because we are not going to tolerate lawyers seeking to manipulate the process like that. Those who presented and spoke on behalf of Margaret Parsons at that press conference are going to answer for the fact of the series of lies that were told by this woman…” Astaphan said.