KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb. 20, IWN — CARICOM leaders have expressed “grave concern” that Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves “was reportedly accosted and tackled on an aircraft, and physically impeded by a team of individuals purporting to be members of the British media”.
In a statement at the end of a two-day meeting in Haiti, the heads of state and government of the Caribbean Community said they had received a report from Gonsalves about the incident.
Gonsalves has said in several calls to radio programmes here that he was accosted on Sunday by two BBC journalists who are investigating the operations of Dave Ames and Harlequin, which owns the Buccament Bay Resort.
At the time of the incident, Prime Minister Gonsalves, his wife, Eloise, and Ambassador Ellsworth John, head of the Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit, were on a LIAT aircraft in Barbados en route to the 24th Intersessional Meeting of Heads of State and Government of CARICOM.
“The Heads expressed their grave concern with the manner in which Prime Minister Gonsalves, a sitting CARICOM Head of Government, was reportedly confronted,” the statement said.
“While fully supportive of the freedom of the press and the vital role played by a free, active and responsible press in governance and development, the Heads emphasised that the dignity of the office of Head of State or Government within CARICOM is equal to that of any other nation, as are the attendant security concerns and expectations.
“This dignity and security concern of a Head of Government cannot be violated by unidentified representatives of a foreign press service who, for whatever reason, expect a level of access to CARICOM Heads of State or Government that they would not receive from Heads of State in their countries of origin,” the statement said.
“The Heads reiterated their individual willingness to be accessible to the media and responsive and forthcoming to reasonable requests from the press. They recommitted to the values of transparency, good governance and the free flow of information, which undergird the free and independent societies of CARICOM,” the release stated.
CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, President of Haiti, Michel Martelly, and Prime Minister St. Kitts and Nevis, Denzil Douglas address the media at the close of the 24th Intersessional Meeting of the Heads of State and Government of CARICOM, held in Pétion-ville, Haiti. (Photo: SVG UN Mission)