KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has responded to the WikiLeaks cable of a January 2008 meeting between him and U.S. ambassador to Bridgetown, Mary Ourisman, saying that the leaked document portrays him as a strong and decisive leader rather than a scared little boy.
“I am not going to take the view of some other prime ministers in the Caribbean – I wouldn’t call names – who get very upset that their private conversations with an ambassador is being put on WikiLeaks,” Gonsalves told reporters on Tuesday.
“I mean, it is there, what can I do about it? Am I going to put my finger like a little boy in the dike and just cry helplessly?” he said adding that there will be more leaked documents and that he is “not too concerned about them”.
“You and the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines know me better than any American official and we know what we are about and what we are trying to do in our country and in our civilisation,” he further said.
In the secret cable to Washington, Ourisman, after a meeting with Gonsalves in Barbados, said he was “a master of contradictions, who continues to court whatever foreign government he can in order to secure financial and other benefits for his country”.
“I am the prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a small country in a hostile world with a flexible foreign policy, which is grounded on a core set of principles — the charter of the United Nations — and we would seek … economic and political space to enhance our capacity to deal more favourably with our external environment in the interest of our people,” Gonsalves said.
He said that while his government might take different positions on different issues involving the same country, “that doesn’t mean that there are contradictions”.
Gonsalves said his Unity Labour Party administration has a “clear social democratic philosophy and an anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism of this government and we are grounded in principles of equity and peace and justice.
“We are focusing on education and poverty reduction and anybody who is with us on these things, we are together,” Gonsalves said.
He noted that the United States has praised his government for casting the deciding vote at the U.N. on an issue that involved human rights issues in Iran.
“The American loved that. If it was something that I didn’t agree with them on, they wouldn’t love it,” Gonsalves said.
He said that rather than seeking the approval of the United States, he seeks the endorsement of Vincentians and “our Caribbean civilisation and hope that all of our friends grasp and understand our position, which we have articulated with clarity”.
“Prime ministers of Caribbean countries don’t write WikiLeaks with their view of ambassadors,” Gonsalves further said adding that when he leaves office he will write a book on international relations and “unburden myself with all sorts of opinions about all sorts of people whom I come in touch with”.
“… but the time will come for that. While I am a practitioner, it is not in the interest of my country to be doing that sort of a thing,” Gonsalves said as he noted that “those WikiLeaks are written by an American official.
“That is the person’s view,” he said, adding, “It doesn’t mean that they even understand clearly what you are saying.”
The cables said Gonsalves had referred to St. Lucia Minister of Tourism Alan Chastenet as being among “a species of brown people in the Caribbean with money [who are] not loyal to anybody”.
He said these “Castries mulattos”, believe they are “oracles” and represent “in the social advancement in the Eastern Caribbean”.
“I’m a social scientist. I would have given her a highly sophisticated analysis. She is a lady from the deep south of the United States who would want to reduce it to one line. That’s not my problem,” Gonsalves said of Ambassador Ourisman.
“She is a wonderful lady but she comes from a different set of experiences than I come from and a different intellectual trajectory,” he added.
Gonsalves said that Kingstown and Washington have “excellent” relations, which Foreign Affairs Minister Sen. Douglas Slater recently reaffirmed during an visit to the United States.
“[W]hat we always need to remember [is] what is the interest of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. What are the interests at stake? Did the prime minister come over as somebody who was defending his country, his people, our civilisation, its laws customs, tradition, interest? Is he coming over as a man of strength and leadership and purpose? Those are the questions; not whether she is happy with my view or not happy with my view or what her understanding is,” Gonsalves said.
He said that he did not intend to comment on every WikiLeaks document about him but was doing so because it was the first one and since he had on Sunday night given a comment to Searchlight newspaper.
The Ourisman-Gonsalves talks were held over breakfast in January 2008 and covered the crime situation in St. Vincent, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, regional airline LIAT, the International Monetary Fund’s involvement in the Eastern Caribbean, and cultural influences and preservation, and the stabbing of a Peace Corp volunteer in mid-2007.