KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has objected to the space The News newspaper provides the Green Party to publish its weekly column.
The News provides space for the Green Party, along with the Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party and the New Democratic Party — the two main political parties — here to publish columns every week.
Gonsalves’ comments on the newspaper and the political columns came last week as he spoke about some radio talk show hosts repeating callers’ information without confirming it.
“Some of them can’t even keep people awake. They have to beg you to stay awake. … Now they want to press forward? One part of the press breakdown. These are serious people?” Gonsalves said.
His comments were seemingly in reference to radio personalities and political activists Matthew Thomas and Junior Bacchus, hosts of the former “Stay Awake” radio programme on Nice Radio.
While Thomas has proposed the Political Party for Political Reformation, Equality, Socialization, and Services (PRESS), Bacchus has said that he has no interest in forming another political party here.
“And the journalists themselves, with great respect, have to get serious,” Gonsalves said.
“Every week, you open a newspaper, The News, you see three political parties with opinions. Each of them gets about a half a page. The NDP, fair enough; the ULP, fair enough; and, the Green Party. So, all you need to do to get space is to say that you are a party. And during the time when people are not considering the serious business of elections, when politics becomes for some a branch of the entertainment industry, you just entertain,” he said.
Gonsalves said that the Green Party, led by former ULP treasury Ivan O’Neal, does not get as much votes as the number of polling stations in the constituencies it contests.
“And you have done that election after election and you still maintain the fiction that you are a political party deserving of a half a page,” Gonsalves said of the Green Party, which gained less than one per cent of the popular vote in the 2005 and 2010 elections, respectively.
“I hope PRESS applies for half page in The News,” Gonsalves said
“I don’t run The News, I can’t tell them what to do but I certainly have a mouth as a citizen to talk about what I see,” he further stated.
“I know that they would say ‘Yeah, but you started with the MNU, you didn’t get a lot of votes.’ I get one-quarter of the votes in my constituency and, more than that, I used to publish things,” said Gonsalves, who came to office in 2001 after his Movement for National Unity, a minority party, merged with the St. Vincent Labour Party to form the ULP in 1994.
“Ideas were presented so people can read what you are saying, serious people,” Gonsalves said of his MNU.
“I [wasn’t] going on no programme to talk a lot of half-truths and untruths and have fact-free [discourse] and have people sue me because [I was] involved defamation,” he said of his MNU days, which ended before radio was liberalised here.
Gonsalves has successfully sued several radio talk show hosts and opposition Members of Parliament for defamation.
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