KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – While dead men tell no tales, WikiLeaks might reveal the contents of conversations that Glenn Jackson, slain press secretary to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, had with U.S. officials based in Barbados.
Jackson was murdered in 2006 and in the weeks after his death, U.S. officials in Bridgetown told Washington they had lost their “most important contact”.
Jackson’s nude body was found in the back seat of his vehicle close to his Cane Garden home on March 6, 2006.
He died of a single bullet to the torso and Gonsalves described his death as an assassination, noting that Jackson was a political figure.
Francis Williams was on Feb. 28, 2008 acquitted of the murder at the preliminary inquiry stage.
U.S. officials in Barbados, in another leaked cable, said the abrupt end to the trial would “no doubt leave most Vincentians further disenchanted with the country’s police force and criminal system”.
U.S. officials said that Jackson’s death, along with departure from Kingstown of British diplomat Terry Knight, “has significantly changed the political landscape” in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
While the cable did not divulge the content of conversations between Jackson and U.S. diplomats, his name now joins the list of Vincentian journalists, business people, Non-Governmental Organisation personnel, activists, and politicians who have shared with U.S. officials their analyses of developments in SVG.
More information on Jackson’s communications with U.S. officials might come to light when WikiLeaks releases the remaining 108,000 of 251,287 cables.
“The tragic murder in March of Press Secretary Glenn Jackson has deprived the Government of a key figure who counselled the PM on a variety of issues and was [the embassy’s] best contact in St. Vincent,” the 2006 cable said.
The leaked document said that Jackson’s death left Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party (ULP) “bereft of one of its leading figures”.
The cable noted that Jackson, a trained journalist who pioneered today’s version of talk radio in SVG, “was among Gonsalves’s closest confidants, attending all Cabinet meetings and weighing in on important policy issues”.
It further highlighted his involvement in helping the ULP defeat the New Democratic Party (NDP) in 2001 and 2005.
While the U.S. officials said Jackson was their most important contact, they also described him as “a divisive figure in St. Vincent, leading to speculation that his murder may not have been a random crime”.
The cable noted his rise to prominence in the 1990s as host of the country’s first talk radio programme.
Jackson used his programme to rally hundred of Vincentians in several causes, including against the U.S. government “for its support of ending preferential trade quotas for Caribbean bananas”, telecommunications giant and Wireless – now LIME, and former prime minister Sir James Mitchell and the NDP.
“In Government, Glenn Jackson established himself as one of PM Gonsalves’ most trusted associates and was given the official title Personal Aide in addition to Press Secretary,” the cable said.
“Jackson was among a handful of people that were … close to Gonsalves in a Government full of political appointees and bureaucrats of questionable ability,” the document further stated.
The previously “confidential” communiqué said that governments “full of political appointees and bureaucrats of questionable ability” are a common quality of governments in the Eastern Caribbean.
This make already small governing institutions even smaller, “so that decision-making and access to information are often concentrated in a small clique close to the prime minister”.
“In St. Vincent, PM Gonsalves has taken this tendency to an extreme and nearly all Government initiatives are run directly from his office. As the PM’s top aide, Glenn Jackson was, therefore, exceptionally knowledgeable. Post was particularly fortunate to identify Jackson’s value and cultivate a relationship that made him our most important contact,” the cable said.