These are some of the major events in or about St. Vincent and the Grenadines from July to September 2010. For fast, fair, factual, free news and current affairs information about St. Vincent and the Grenadines, please go to the homepage to subscribe to I Witness-News.
July 3: – Iva Satney is the first St Lucian to win Miss Carical, “the most prestigious beauty pageant in the Caribbean”. First Runner-up is Miss St. Kitts & Nevis Sudeakka Francis while Miss Dominica Marcia Baptiste and Miss Anguilla Sangrena Harris take the third and fourth spots, respectively.
July 3:- Gamal ‘Skinny Fabulous’ Doyle wins the Soca Monarch title for a third consecutive time. Second is six-time champion Delroy’ Fire Man’ Hooper with Raeon ‘Maddzart’ and Shertz ‘Problem Child’ James, taking other two top spots.
July 4:- Bridgette “Joy-C’” Creese successfully fends off ten men to retain her national calypso monarch title. She gets the judges’ nod with her songs “Think” and “The Cries of the Grand”. Second place goes to Robert ‘Patches’ King whose “Whey The Good People Gone” and “The Predator” win him his highest ranking in his many attempts to win the crown. Third position goes to three-time calypso monarch Kenneth “The Vibrating Scakes” Allenye who sang “Tremors” and “Amnesia”.
PM defends AG amidst resignation calls
July 12:- Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves defends Attorney General Judith Jones-Morgan amidst calls that she should resign after it becomes public that the High Court ordered her husband, Desmond Morgan, a former chairman of the NCB, to pay the bank EC$2.251 million for loans and interest. “That doesn’t have anything to do with the Attorney General,” Gonsalves says of the Jones-Morgan, a nominal shareholder of the NCB.
Ambassador wants proof of human trafficking
July 12:- Amb. Camillo Gonsalves, the Vincentian permanent representative to the United Nations, describes as “backwards thinking” the evidence the United States has tabled in support of its claim that trafficking in persons (TIPS) exists in SVG. The United States, in its 2010 TIP report, which covered 2009, said SVG “is a source country for some children subjected to trafficking in persons. “You and I know on the ground that there is no trafficking in person happening in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Amb. Gonsalves tells journalists in Kingstown.
Not so Gonsalves tells Trinidad PM
July 12:- Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves addresses the “perceived perspective of the new Trinidad and Tobago government in relation to the CARICOM Development Fund and the CARICOM Petroleum Facility”. He says the twin-island republic cannot abdicate its contributions even as it seems that Port of Spain, under the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration, which came to office in May, is re-examining its contributions to regional development. “…if any government treats the CARICOM Development Fund, which is established under Article 158 [of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas], as if it were an option, they would be derogating from the bargain,” Gonsalves says.
Eustace outlines NDP policies
July 18:- President of the NDP and Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace, tells his party’s 32 conventions that “tackling the state of our economy” would be his party’s top priority should it be elected to office in the next general elections. An NDP administration, he says, will pay particular attention to government finances “in order to stimulate economic growth thereby improving the standard of living if all our people”.
NDP ready to go to Privy Council
July 18:- Former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell says the ongoing legal battle between the NDP, which he founded and the Boundaries Commission could end at the London-based Privy Council if the NDP does not get the outcome it wants. The NDP secured and injunction on July 9 preventing the government from publishing the report of the Boundaries Commission. “…if the court does not give us what we want, we are going all the way to the Privy Council,” Sir James tells the NDP’s 32nd convention.
Burton Williams tells NDP sorry
July 18:- Burton Williams, the NDP’s candidate for South Windward Sunday apologizes for running against the party in 1994 after a fall out with NDP founder and then Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell. “Today, I take the next step and say to you my people I humbly apologize to you,” he tells the NDP 32nd conventions, saying he had apologized to Sir James in private before. “I want to say to Burton: Before he gets my 100 [per cent] support, I want to hear him apologize to the party and the people of South Windward,” Sir James had told the convention.
Sir James eyes cocoa cash
July 18:- Former Prime Minister, agrarian Sir James Mitchell, recommends that the NDP and the government consider large-scale cocoa cultivation. Cocoa sells £2,400 per tonne, up £480 per tonnes in 1992, with projections that the price will increase to £3,000 per tonne, he says. He says the fruit was suitable to the soil in SVG with certain varieties particularly resistant to disease while having high yield.
PM: ULP chooses the best
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says his ULP will nominate the best candidates from among the persons interested in running on a ULP ticket in the next general elections. “We sit and we interview these persons. We ask them all sorts of things and we make assessments and all kinds of questions…” he says.
PM shows off computer
July 19:- Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves shows media workers a laptop computer his government is hoping to buy for every student at and above primary school level. He displays the computer two days after leader of the opposition Arnhim Eustace said an NDP government would work towards providing each school age child, in primary to secondary school, with a laptop.
PM pins Trinidad to British American resolution
July 19:- The CARICOM spokesperson on the British American Insurance Company debacle, Vincentian Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, says he does “not expect the government of Trinidad and Tobago to walk away” from its obligations to resolving the situation. Gonsalves responds to the view that oil-rich Trinidad and Tobago “simply did backroom operations” for the Bahamas headquartered BAICO: “The fact of the matter is this: It is clear that CL Financial took resources from British American and invested it in several places, including in Trinidad and Tobago,” he says.
Eastern Caribbean economies decline
The economy SVG declined by 1.1 per cent in 2009 amidst an average contraction of 7.3 per cent across the eight-member Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). ECCU figures show that only the economy of Montserrat, a colony of Britain, grew in 2009, registering a one per cent improvement on its 2008 performance. All seven independent ECCU economies contracted in 2009.
Eustace doubts AG husband’s NCB loans were secured
July 20:- Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace doubts that former NCB chairman Desmond Morgan had $4 million worth of property put up as security for loans from the bank, as Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says. “[In] objective circumstances, where they had that (security), there is no reason to go to court,” Eustace says. The High Court had ordered Morgan, proprietor of Blue Skye Communication (SVG) Ltd., to pay the NCB EC$2.251 million as repayment for loans and interest accumulated. “[T]he court order [was] to make the surety of the legal mortgage doubly sure,” Gonsalves tells reporters.
PM: I didn’t refuse to go to court
July 20:- Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says he did not refuse to go to court to answer rape allegations against him but his predecessor, Sir James Mitchell, is taking legal action to avoid testifying before the Ottley Hall Commission of Inquiry. The Director of Public Prosecution in 2008 discontinued rape accusation against Gonsalves by a woman in his security detail and a Vincentian-Canadian lawyer. The Inquiry is trying to unearth what happened at the Ottley Hall Marina, which was valued at between $3.5 million and $7 million but left the nation with a debt of $200 million.
Chamber tells members car park lease in jeopardy
July 20:- The Chamber of Industry and Commerce writes to its members telling them that it was at risk of losing the car parks it developed and operated in Kingstown since 2000. It further suggests that things might come to a head if, in the absence of a lease renewal, the Chamber is not compensated for the developmental works on the property. The private sector organization wanted to know if the government was not renewing the lease to award it to another group which would also use the facility as a car park.
Health Minister sees big problem
July 26:- Minister of Health Dr Douglas Slater says obesity is “a serious problem” in SVG, “especially among our females”. He says the problem was obvious during Carnival. “I think people just do not pay enough attention to their personal health,” says Slater, a physician. Official statistics shows that during the past five years, an average of 9.86 per cent of children under 5 monitored each year at state-owned health centres are “obese” while a further 4.2 per cent of those children are “moderately overweight”. Assistant Nutritionist Joyce Burgin says Vincentians should exercise for at least 30 minutes no less than three days per weeks.
72 educators retire
July 28:- The Ministry of Education recognises 72 educators who retired in 2009 or are retiring this year. “Your years of dedication and commitment have been a veritable labour of love and our nation is richer for the efforts you have made through the years,” Minister of Education Girlyn Miguel says. However, retiring teacher Herman Cummings says such recognition should come before retirement. “…recognition [can] be given to teacher before their retirement since it can motivate them and enhance their effectiveness in the classroom,” Cummings says.
The AG’s husband’s loans were secured
July 30:- A Searchlight investigation finds that Desmond Morgan and his wife, Attorney General Judith Jones-Morgan, guaranteed the loans Blue Skye Communication (SVG) Limited took from the NCB on October 10, 2006, with 2.4 acres land they own at Calder. An evaluator says the lands were enough security for the $342, 321.88 Mr Morgan’s company borrowed from the NCB. The High Court in March ordered Blue Skye to repay the bank $2.251 million for the loans and interest accumulated.
Plan identifies HIV drivers
Drugs, peer pressure and money, are driving Vincentian youth towards sex early in their lives, exposing them to risky HIV situations, says the HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan 2010-2014. The Plan identifies sexual intercourse at an early stage in life as the number one driver of the HIV epidemic in SVG and the wider Caribbean.
Lybian bank coming to the region
Aug 3:- Vincentians and Eastern Caribbean private sector stakeholders may soon be able to access loans from a Libyan investment bank, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves announces after a trip to Libya. The bank, to be capitalized at US$100 million, will be based in St. Kitts/Nevis,” he says.
PM: NCB not in intensive care
Aug. 3:- Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says the National Commercial Bank (NCB) is not in intensive care although government is considering divesting “a majority of the shares”. He says ULP, which came to office in 2001, has “taken the bank from a very weak position and have strengthened the bank”.
Min. of Health finds hospital leak
Aug 5:- Minister of Health, Dr Douglas Slater tells Parliament a “leak” in the operating theatre at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital “is due to moisture-laden air infiltration, combined with ineffective design and operation”. He later says his Ministry does not have a complete report on how the problem should rectified
School violent for males
Aug 6:- Deputy Principal of the University of the West Indies in Trinidad Prof. Rhoda Reddock says school for some male students is so violent that they opt to drop out. She says at the Girl High School centenary lecture that the issue needs to be made a political one. “
Eustace exposes ‘corruption’ at Min. of Health
Aug 9:- Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace describes as “downright corruption” practices at the Ministry of Health, where civil servants bought computer supplies and fast food and paid monies to the International Airport Development Company contrary to government policy.
Auditor makes demands of Min. of Health
Aug. 10:- The Director of Audit tells Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and the Environment Lanceford Weekes to explain why monies allocated to the Cuban Integrated Health Programme were used for purposes not approved by Parliament. Weekes is also asked to explain the involvement of the state-owned International Airport Development Company in the CIHP.
Health Minister defends officials
Aug. 11:- Minister of Health Dr Douglas Slater defends his staff although a Special Audit uncovered misappropriation of funds, the absence of internal control, and wastage of resources under the local Cuban Integrated Health Programme. “…some of the account was not totally appropriate or proper but it is not that the accounting was done to benefit any individual,” Slater says.
PM sides with officials amidst health ministry ‘corruption’ charge
Aug. 13:- Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says Public servants managing the Cuban Integrated Health Programme skirted procedure but are not necessarily corrupt. He says auditors “found a lot of things which were wrong” but adds that until he gets “evidence to the contrary”, he is siding with health Minister Dr Douglas Slater and Permanent Secretary Lanceford Weekes, who both denied corruption in the programme.
Internal opposition to car park lease
Aug. 13:- The Public Service Union, an affiliate of the National Labour Congress (NLC) opposes the leasing to the NLC, two car parks at the centre of a potential legal battle between the government and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce. The PSU says the government’s motives “are not transparent and appear to be less than honourable”.
Balcombe still NDP’s man
Aug 18:- “[Cameron] Balcombe is the candidate for the Party,” NDP leader Arnhim Eustace says amidst reports that constituents do not want Balcombe as the party’s man to come up against Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves in North Central Windward in the general elections.
Manufacturer accepts blame for CAT scan delay
Aug. 18:- General Electronic says it is responsible for the delay in the arrival of a CAT scan machine bought for the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital by the NIS and NCB.
Otto Sam says PM will be transferred
Aug. 18:- “I think that the people would transfer the Prime Minister back to private office – I’ll still be working with government – and to his residence in Gorse,” Public servant and career educator Otto Sam says after we was transferred to the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO).
Slain cop buried
Aug. 21:- Police Constable 494, Kingsley “King John” John, 27, receives a military burial in Georgetown, two weeks after he was shot dead with an M4 rifle inside the Biabou Police Station. Police initially said the shooting was accidental but Director of Public Prosecutions Colin Williams instructs the police to charge fellow SSU officer, Rohan McDowald, with John’s murder.
NDP supporters protest candidate
Aug. 24:- Four NDP supporters in North Central Windward protest outside the party’s Murray’s Road headquarters saying they do not want Cameron “Dinky” Balcombe as the party’s candidate for that constituency in the upcoming general elections. “…that gentleman does not have political substance,” says Newton George, the PRO of the constituency council. Balcombe dismisses George’s PRO position as illegitimate, saying that he had formed a committee outside of the NDP’s constitution.
Aug. 24: Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves seeks the support of his CARICOM colleagues to stem a “campaign of defamation” against SVG and attempts to “destabilize” his ULP administration. Gonsalves, in an “open letter to the people of the Caribbean” says the NDP has aligned itself with foreigners to portray SVG under the ULP government as a nation where “there is no democracy, no freedom, and an absence of a guarantee of civil liberties”.
NDP lawyers: the elections can go on
Aug. 24:- Lawyers for the NDP say their July 9 injunction, which prevented the publication of the Boundaries Report, was to ensure that the opportunity to challenge the operation of the Boundaries Commission is not “forever lost”. “We would like the elections to go ahead but it must be done preserving what is the integrity of the democratic process,” Nicole Sylvester tells reporters, saying elections can still be held but only with the 15 existing seats.
Controversy taints ULP candidate selection
Aug. 25:- Insurance broker Berrisford Phillips is “terribly upset” after he loses the ULP Central Kingstown primary 65 to 63 to teacher Elvis Charles. “[ULP general secretary], Senator [Julian] Francis called me last night and indicated to me that as far as he is concerned, there was no clear winner,” Phillips says on the party’s radio station. Charles says he is “disappointed” with Phillips, who was “rather individualistic in expressing – venting his emotions”.
Otto Sam threatens to sue
Aug. 25:- Otto Sam, the school principal who was transferred to the National Emergency Management Office says he will be going to court to seek to have his transferred reviewed. “It is not that you have a qualm. It’s simply that we have been accepting particular sets of behaviour and action that are illegal and very unfortunate and somebody needs to challenge it,” he says.
Gov’t will pay dead cop’s family
Aug. 30:- Minter of Legal Affairs, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, tells Parliament his government will compensate the family of Constable Kingsley John, 27, the cop killed inside the Biabou Police Station on August 7. “The breadwinner is gone, there are practical matters to be dealt with,” Gonsalves says.
Sept. 3: – The Boundaries Commission agrees not to publish any new reports until the September 30 trial of issued relating to its work, lawyers for opposition leader Arnhim Eustace says. “We accept that undertaking and at least we applaud them for giving the undertaking not to publish any other order. … So, at least, we can now feel reassured that rule of law is alive and kicking and reassured that the issue at hand will actually get a fair hearing and we all will await the outcome of the court, which is what we have always wanted,” lawyer Nicole Sylvester tells reporters.
Sept 5: – Vincentian Kellisha Olivierre, 24, is among the six women killed when two robbers set fire to a clothing store in Barbados. Also dead are 19-year-old Guyanese Amanda Cornelius and Barbadians Shanna Griffith, 18; Pearl Amanda Cornelius, 18; Kelly Anne Welch, 24; Tiffany Harding, 23; and Nakita Belgrave, 23.The women died when robbers threw an incendiary device into Campus Trendz store just before 7 p.m., after taking an undisclosed amount of cash.
PM accuses opposition consultants of tracking him
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says he is being tracked by Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL), the election consultants for the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP).He says the company of hired someone to hack into his email account and interfering with his telecommunications. He also says he was accosted in London by a SCL operative posing as a journalist.
Sept 7:- Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace responds to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves’ “open letter to the people of the Caribbean” saying Vincentians “know the reality of their condition under the heavy hand of an increasingly dictatorial regime”. Eustace invites residents of the region to come to SVG, “live the Vincentian experience … then ask yourselves: ‘Is this what we want in our own countries?’” Gonsalves, in an Aug. 24 letter, circulated to CARICOM heads of government and the regional media, said Eustace’s NDP had aligned itself with foreign forces in undermining his ULP administration.
Sept 10: – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph says he is the only Vincentian with the “global stature” needed to lead SVG. Speaking from Cuba on WE FM’s morning show, Gonsalves says “As a professional and as an intellectual, I had made a mark. And the politics, my role as Prime Minster, simply added to that.”
“So you are saying there is nobody else in St. Vincent who has the stature on the world stage to deal with this business except you?” Cooke asked.
“Name them for me. I am not indispensable. Because, if I die — I get very sick — somebody has to do the job. But you are dealing right now with the choices which are available. And that is the point I am making. And I don’t sound immodest about it, even though the point I am making is true,” Gonsalves says.
Sept 10:- Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves had defended his decision to have his youngest son, Storm Gonsalves, educated in the United Kingdom, saying the choice is not an indictment on his administration’s much trumpeted “education revolution”.
Sept 12: – Platform speakers at a ULP campaign event recount the party’s performance, acknowledge disgruntlement, and encourage party supporter to own the campaign. “… There is nothing new about the New Democratic Party. So, that is why those of us who are here who feel disgruntled, who feel overlooked, who feel as if we’ve been passed by, we gotta regroup, we gotta recharge and we gotta move forward,” says Michelle Fife, the party’s West Kingstown candidate.
Anesia Baptiste, the public servants who is suspended for making statements critical of the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves government, publishes an 80-page book “Socialist Revolution-From Grenada to St. Vincent”. “I wrote this book to put into context and on record what Vincentians had experienced in the last year and for a reminder of what we are fighting against today, with our current prime minister and his political party,” Baptiste, a national scholar, says of the publication.
Sept. 18:- The NDP presents its case for governance of SVG to South Central Windward constituents saying the ULP is all about politics and has “nothing to do with people”. Much of the party’s criticism of the stewardship of ULP’s over the past nine years centres on party leader, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.
Public servant and career teacher Otto Sam slams the ULP administration for transferring teachers Elvis Daniel and Paulette Williams from the Community College. Sam, who was himself in August transferred from head teacher of the South Rivers Methodist School to NEMO says the Gonsalves government is undermining the local Community College even as Gonsalves sends his son, Storm Gonsalves, to a university in England.
Sept. 14:-Former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell says he “went overboard” in saying he does not trust “even Jesus Christ” when it comes to general elections. But while he retracted the statement, Sir James says he will not retract his concerns about the election. “…I made reference to Jesus Christ, which I wish to withdraw and apologize…” he says.
Sept. 18:- Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves engages the Vincentian diaspora in New York ahead of his weeklong participation in activities at the United Nations (UN). Gonsalves is the feature speaker at a town hall meeting and is also the specially invited guest at a gospel concert to benefit persons suffering from kidney ailments.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves tells the United Nation that SVG is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 target date. He, however, tells the international organization that the developed world has provided less than half of the development assistance that it pledged to developing nation.
Sept 23:- Minister of Culture Rene Baptiste defends the government’s decision to place a Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) scan machine at a facility owned by her sister, Dr. Rosalind Ambrose. “…she is a consultant radiologist. She is a clinical professor of radiology. She is recognized by the Royal College of Radiologist,” she says in response to columnist Dr Kenneth John.
Sept. 24:- Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace says Attorney General Judith Jones-Morgan and her husband, Desmond Morgan, chairman of the state-owned Roads, Buildings, and General Services Authority should resign. The Attorney General was not included in the lawsuit the NCB brought against her husband and his business. “… [T]he house in which they live is signed for, both by the Attorney General and himself (Mr. Morgan). But the Attorney General’s name was not there on the lawsuit that the bank brought. …Now that that we have the information, I am calling for the Attorney General of this country to stand down and resign from office,” Eustace says.
Sept 27:- President of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), Arnhim Eustace, condemns a statement by NDP candidate and former parliamentarian, Burton Williams, who suggested that an NDP administration would cater to the needs of its supporters first. “That has been our position all the time, that we need to look after the interest of all people, and I emphasise the word all. It should not matter whether you are [a support of the] ULP or NDP,” Eustace says.
Sept. 29: – Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace describes as “sad” and “frightening” the reality that the state-owned NCB is being sold to private investors. He said Prime Minster Dr. Ralph Gonsalves was “responsible for the failure” of the financial institution. “In many ways tonight is a sad night … but it is sad for one particular reason: because in the next day or two, the National Commercial Bank will not belong to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Eustace tells party supporters at an election rally.
Sept. 29: – SVG’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves says the organisation is at risk of becoming “a mere ‘talk shop’, an amalgam of unwieldy bureaucracies or a toothless rubber stamp of decisions taken elsewhere. … [T]alk is cheap, even when it is the heady talk of billions of dollars. Commitments made must be commitments kept. And we must hold to account those who repeatedly make empty promises,” Amb. Gonsalves says.