KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The government is keeping its “legal powder dry” but says it is pleased with the progress so far in seeking redress, through diplomatic channels, for the arrest of one of its envoys in New York last month.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told a media briefing on Tuesday that U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have expressed regret at the arrest of Camillo Gonsalves, this country’s U.N. ambassador — Gonsalves’ oldest son — by a New York cop on March 28.
The U.S. officials spoke to the issue in a meeting with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders at the Summit of the Americas in Columbia last weekend.
Gonsalves said he had asked the CARICOM caucus not to raise the issue with the U.S. representatives because his administration was satisfied that the U.S. federal government “was keeping its word and responding, in our view, appropriately and satisfactorily”.
“And that was confirmed in my discussion with President Obama … and with Secretary of State Clinton on the issue. That is to say, they regret very much the incident and are both supportive of the efforts of [U.S ambassador to the United Nations] Susan Rice” – who also expressed regret at the incident.
According to Gonsalves, Clinton has been keeping up to date with Rice and said that Rice would deal with the matter fully to his satisfaction.
“President Obama expressed a similar view and said if there are any hiccups along the way, touch base with his office,” Gonsalves said.
He said he was “grateful” that the top levels U.S. Officials were “showing genuine concern … and expressing regret.
“Now, I don’t want to get onto the conversation about people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines who injects partisan political issues into an issue which ought not to be,” he further said.
He added that other leaders at the Summit had expressed solidarity with him and Foreign Affairs Minister Sen. Douglas Slater.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly last Friday sent an investigator along with State Department officials to visit Ambassador Gonsalves, “as promised by Rice to speak to him as part of the investigation which is underway,” the Prime Minister said.
“Camillo has informed me that he went through all the issues with them. He said that he thought that the meeting was a good meeting.
“Of course, all over the world, we know what internal police inquiries sometimes do. But we wait and we wait and keep our legal power dry.
“Remember I said we are proceeding on the basis of diplomacy and law. And we have been very focused, and disciplined and professional on this,” adding that the country had “elicited support from all over the world”. He said “it is really disappointing to see persons suggesting here … that I engineered this whole thing to make it so that Camillo can return to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and be parachuted in at the top [of the political hierarchy].
“… It is just a lot of rubbish,” Gonsalves said.
Rice last week Tuesday visited Ambassador Gonsalves at in his office and expressed regret at the incident.
“That is not to be taken lightly. It is the first time, since Independence, that a cabinet member of the U.S. government, who is also the Permanent Representative of the United States, visited the mission of any of these countries in the Caribbean,” the Prime Minister said.
He noted that Rice visited Ambassador Gonsalves on a day when she was chairing a Security Council meeting.
“The report given to me was that she was very warm and sincere and from the comments which she made, convinced me that they take the matter seriously and they reiterate their commitment towards the Vienna Convention [on Diplomatic Relations] and also to the host agreements which they have between the United Nations and the United States of America.”
Rice on Thursday invited Ambassador Gonsalves to her home for dinner and to attend a basketball game in New York.
“She was again showing her concern and her empathy,” Gonsalves said, adding that the Vincentians envoy declined the invitation because he was travelling to Kuwait the following day.