- “… there are several instances, since Dave Ames has been there, when the state has had to take certain strong measures.” – PM Gonsalves
- “… I want the people of this country to know how the opposition, in conjunction with people from overseas are seeking to undermine economic development in the country…” – PM Gonsalves
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb. 18, IWN – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has accused the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) of joining with foreigners to undermine economic development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
He levelled the charge during a call to WE FM from Antigua on Sunday after an encounter with two BBC journalists, who, he said, accosted him aboard an aircraft in Barbados on Sunday.
He said the men told him, “Prime Minister, we have three witnesses who would testify that [resort developer] Dave Ames came into your office with a briefcase of money and then left without it. What do you have to say?”
Gonsalves denied having received money from Ames, whose company, Harlequin, is the subject of an investigation by the BBC “Panorama” programme.
Paul Kenyon, one of the journalists, told I-Witness News on Sunday that they had failed to secure an interview with Gonsalves during their four-day visit to St. Vincent last week.
But Gonsalves said he only knew on Friday that the journalists wanted to interview him.
Gonsalves, who said he had visited paralysed, gunshot victim Sweet-I Robertson in Chateaubelair on her birthday and got back to his office at 4:55 p.m. Friday, said he told his secretary to tell the man that he couldn’t meet them that day.
Gonsalves left St. Vincent on Sunday for the CARICOM heads of government meeting in Haiti and will return on Thursday.
The Prime Minister said the man said they were leaving St. Vincent on Saturday, and he told them he would not be available until next Friday.
Gonsalves said that 10 minutes later, another man called and said it seems that he was avoiding them
“I wasn’t avoiding them. But if you are coming to St. Vincent, you want to interview me, write me, call. There is Hans King, the press secretary, there is Elson Crick, the communications director,” he said.
“And when I found it obviously strange that they had come to do a hatchet job, was when a journalist called me, a female journalist, and said that [opposition senator,] Vynnette Frederick had been calling around to find out if they can get me to talk to these people,” the Prime Minister said.
Gonsalves said that the men apparently went to Buccament with one of the senator’s brothers on Saturday.
“Now, if Mr. Ames has any problems with investors, they deal with that in the United Kingdom. Mr. Ames has received concession, as every investor; Mr. Ames has been given citizenship, as indeed other investors who have been around for five years or more and who have qualified,” said Gonsalves, who has ministerial responsibilities for citizenship matters.
The opposition has questioned how Ames became a citizen but Gonsalves has said that the process was in keeping with the law.
“I’m not going to discuss why a particular person has been granted citizenship as against somebody else. In other words, I am not individualizing this,” he said in June 2012.
On Sunday, he said he has “not even taken or asked for a campaign contribution from them (Harlequin) for elections”.
He said that he went to the resort once with his wife and two daughters, and two of their daughters’ friends.
“When I asked for the bill, they said to me that the manager said not to charge me. It was about 100-and-something-dollars. When I get back up, I called their lawyer Sam Commissiong and said this embarrasses me. When I go to eat I want to pay,” the Prime Minister said.
“Now, there are several instances, since Dave Ames has been there, when the state has had to take certain strong measures. I don’t have to talk about what they were or what they had been — in relation to that project,” Gonsalves said.
“And, everything that has been done by this government in relation to that project, has been done transparently and in accordance with law. So, this dastardly accusation — I have been in politics now, actively, for 40-soemthign years. It is the first time somebody has made such a dastardly accusation in relation to me. Totally false!” he further stated.
“And this kind of this unseemly ambush, I want the people of this country to know how the opposition, in conjunction with people from overseas are seeking to undermine economic development in the country and at the same time, to see how they can bring disrepute to the office of the Prime Minister,” Gonsalves said.
It is terrible and the only way to fight these things is to come openly,
Gonsalves said, adding that he is no less of a prime minister than Britain’s Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, or David Cameron.
“They think they can go on any plane and accost them, ambush them in that manner? This falsehood about they have witnesses — they can have a thousand witnesses … because it is untrue; wholly untrue,” he further said of the accusation.
Gonsalves further said that a gentleman has said that the BBC journalist had shown to them a video in which Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace reportedly levelled an accusation against the Prime Minister.
“I hope that gentleman could be prepared to come forward and provide that evidence. In fact, he also told me — the gentleman — that Eustace was telling them the way he can help them to ambush me.
“… We have been having in recent times the opposition in the country behaving in a particular way. … If you can think of a Doberman with denture, yapping, yapping so you see everything exposed and when they bite, they think they have something, they have absolutely no impact,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves further said that when he was in opposition and an offshore banker accused Eustace of taking bribes and taking and not repaying loans — which Eustace denied — he gave Eustace the benefit of the doubt.
“I said, if I have to choose between the word of Nano and Arnhim Eustace, I will choose Arnhim Eustace word. I said, until the evidence comes, I am not getting involved in that sort of a rubbish and I fought the election on other things.
“You see how people protect the integrity of the Office of the Prime Minister and those who don’t want to? And those who want power so badly that they would want to pull the country down. … Can you imagine such outrageous conduct all around by these people the opposition and these journalists? Of course, I will write the BBC when I get back home,” Gonsalves said.