KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – One of this country’s weekly newspapers has used its editorial to respond to comments by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves about its reportage on him and his Unity Labour Party (ULP) government.
“The News newspaper today, to put it in local language, gives this government and gives De Comrade hell. I don’t know what ah did [its editor] Shelly [Clarke] Gonsalves said Tuesday.
He noted the high ranking this country received recently by international press freedom watchdogs as he responded to a reporter’s question about when the Freedom of Information Act Parliament passes in 2003 would take effect.
“…during the latter NDP (New Democratic Party) years, when The News was very critical of the NDP, it was not nearly as critical of the NDP as it is now critical of us (the ULP administration),” Gonsalves said.
The NDP was in office for the 17 years ending March 28, 2001, when the ULP came to office.
“The NDP stopped giving them (The News) ads. The government stopped giving them ads. But, pick up any News newspaper and you will see the bread and butter in advertisements is coming from the government,” Gonsalves said, adding, “That is a fact. So you need to take account of that and know that we don’t hold malice over anybody. And we are open and free.”
But The News, in Friday’s two-part editorial, said: “Instead of using valuable time in his news conferences to attack the editor of The News and the News for no specific reason, the prime minister should instead concentrate on telling us how he will be coordinating his charges to fix the things that matter to poor people in this country.”
The editorial said Gonsalves should “Fix the roads, fix the economy, fix bananas, fix the high cost of living, fix the Vinlec fuel surcharge which is higher than the cost of energy used, fix the water rates, fix the carnival poster, fix these things instead of looking for a scapegoat by attacking individuals and trying to change the agenda.”
Gonsalves in the same press conference Tuesday announced that the Vincentian economy grew 0.41 per cent last year, after three years of decline, adding that economists projected 1.5 per cent growth this year.
The News also responded to Gonsalves’ comments about advertisements, saying:
“On the question of government advertisements in the media, one should understand and make a clear distinction between individual politicians, political parties and what is called the government, an institution that employs public servants and is there to serve all citizens.”