KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb. 21, IWN — Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace said Wednesday that he will assume that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who is embroiled in a bribery allegation, is “innocent until … proven otherwise”.
Eustace’s statement came Wednesday during a press conference in which he responded to Gonsalves’ statements in the wake of a bribery allegation that surfaced after a visit to St. Vincent and the Grenadines by two BBC journalists last week.
Gonsalves has made several statements on radio from Haiti, where he was attending a CARICOM summit, which ended Tuesday.
The Prime Minister telephoned WE FM on Sunday, saying two BBC journalists had accosted him on board an airplane in Barbados.
Eustace said Wednesday that Gonsalves has been calling into radio programmes from Haiti and stating and or insinuating that in his interview with the BBC, Eustace “alleged that he had accepted a bribe”, that Eustace “made such allegations because I (Eustace) judge him (Gonsalves) by my own standards”, that the allegations were “generated and or orchestrated by the NDP” and that he (Gonsalves), never accepted a bribe of any kind.
“I say this,” Eustace further said, “to the claim that I alleged that the PM accepted a bribe, at no time in my BBC interview, did I make a single allegation of bribery against Prime Minister Gonsalves.
“To his conjecture that I made such claims because I judge him by my own standards, in so stating, the Prime Minister implied that I have in the past and/or would in the future accept or be inclined to accept a bribe. The very suggestion is plainly untrue and, ironically, libellous.
However, I do judge the Prime Minister by my own standards. I therefore shall assume him to be innocent until such time as he is proven otherwise. To the Prime Minister’s claim that the said allegations were generated and or orchestrated by the NDP: another unacceptable and frankly incredible claim. The NDP can no more dictate to the BBC than the BBC can dictate to the NDP.”
Regarding the Prime Minister’s statement that he has never accepted a bribe of any kind, Eustace noted that Gonsalves is in Haiti attending a summit with other CARICOM heads of government.
“Clearly, weighty matters of local and regional importance are being handled there. The Prime Minister’s lengthy, daily, sometimes twice daily, radio calls to plead his case with the BBC and Harlequin are a distraction from his work at the Summit, and do not, at this early juncture, shed any light on the Buccament situation.
“Nonetheless, this matter, which is still unfolding and in respect of which I expect that there shall be further developments, is significant to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“I encourage nationals to remain calm. Be resolute in your belief that the truth will come out. I am informed that the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ programme on Harlequin and the Prime Minister is scheduled to air in March.
“It will not be long now. May God bless St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Eustace said.
Eustace further said that he was interviewed by the BBC’s Paul Kenyon on Wednesday.
“While the cameras rolled, Mr. Paul Kenyon of the BBC put to me allegations that Prime Minister Gonsalves received substantial bribes from Dave Ames and sought my response to these allegations if they were discovered to be true.
“In response, I indicated that if such were true, the Prime Minister would have to demit office,” Eustace said.