KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace yesterday described as “insulting” the language Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves used last week to explain his refusal to meet with two Falkland Islands legislators.
Falkland Islands lawmakers Sharon Halford and Roger Edwards, along with Deputy British High Commissioner for St. Vincent and the Grenadines Karl Burrows failed to secure a meeting with Gonsalves two weeks ago.
The legislators’ trip to this country was part of efforts to raise awareness across the region about their nation’s quest for self-determination.
The South American islands, a self-governed British overseas territory, are at the heart of a 180-year dispute between the United Kingdom and Argentina, which also claims the islands as it own.
“I saw a statement in one of the newspapers from the Prime Minister, which I thought was very arrogant, … implying that these people come down from a colony why they are expecting to see the prime minister of an independent country,” Eustace said.
Gonsalves told reporters last week that while his schedule prevented him from meeting with the legislators, he also wanted to know on what juridical basis the members of a “colonial” assembly wanted to meet with the prime minister of an independent country.
“I never saw more insulting language than that to be used against parliamentarians from another country,” Eustace further stated. “We were once a colony too. We were once fighting in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for self-determination.”
Eustace, a former prime minister, said that any prime minister could meet any parliamentarian from any part of the world such a prime minister chooses.
“Its [speaks] of a level of arrogance which is unbelievable,” Eustace said of Gonsalves statements.
He noted that this country is preparing for a visit by members of the British Royal Family next week and added that the British government was represented on the Falklands Island delegation.
“I just don’t understand it. I found the language very insulting of the people of the Falkland Islands. It is just 32 years ago we were in the same position like then – non-independent colonies,” said Eustace, whose opposition New Democratic Party met with the legislators.