KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 1, IWN – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has accused Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace of being “duplicitous” about an interview he had with the BBC recently.
Gonsalves levelled the accusation on Monday and said there are five issues arising from his encounter in Barbados on Feb. 17 with BBC journalists Paul Kenyon and Matthew Hill, who he accused of accosting him.
The journalists asked Gonsalves about an allegation that British investor Dave Ames, a naturalised Vincentian, had gone to the Office of the Prime Minister with a bag of money and left without it.
Gonsalves said that “a professional gentleman” told him that he had seen a video in which Eustace makes the allegation.
Eustace has denied making the allegation, and said it was put to him during an interview with Hill and Kenyon.
Issue No. 1:
Gonsalves said the first issue was the false allegation levelled by the BBC journalists.
He said that Kenyon didn’t say that Gonsalves received a bribe but that he has witnesses who will testify that Ames went to Gonsalves’ office with money and left without it.
“That’s not an allegation by him. The issue of bride arose from a report that I received from a professional gentleman about what Mr. Eustace, the Leader of the Opposition allegedly said in an interview with Mr. Kenyon,” Gonsalves said.
Read: PM’s ‘professional gentleman’ prepared to go public
Issue No. 2
Gonsalves also spoke of the “unprofessional partisan approach of the BBC journalist”. He said they were “chaperoned” around the country by an opposition politician, who brother, he said, took the foreign journalists to Buccament Bay by boat.
Issue No. 3
He described as “duplicitous”, Eustace’s interview with the BBC.
Gonsalves told the nation of the encounter with the BBC journalists when he telephoned a programme on WE FM on Feb. 18
Gonsalves noted that Eustace, during his radio programme on Feb. 18 said that Gonsalves is a liar and that he (Eustace) never said that Ames came to his office with money to bribe him.
“Anyone who listened to Mr. Eustace on Monday the 18th, would have reasonably concluded, and, certainly from all the reports, that the BBC journalist did not ask him about any alleged payment to me by Mr. Ames, or quote on quote, bribe, as he, Eustace, puts it.”
Gonsalves said that Eustace did not denounce the persons who told him (Gonsalves) about Eustace reportedly making the allegation, but denounced Gonsalves.
“In other words, I invented it. Well, how would I invent such a thing? I wasn’t there,” Gonsalves said.
He further said that Eustace gave no indication on Feb. 18 that he had any conversation with Kenyon about the alleged bribe.
But he further said that Eustace said at a press conference on Feb. 20 that Kenyon had asked him about the allegation.
“Now, do you not find it passing strange that on Monday he would have spoken expansively and did not tell us […] that he had a conversation with Mr. Kenyon relating to bribes?” Gonsalves said.
He further said “there’s a lot of communication between certain people in England and here in St. Vincent and somebody must have advised him (Eustace) …” to say the BBC had asked him about the allegation.
“So, first of all, he didn’t tell us. The omission to speak the truth is not necessarily a lie. An omission to speak the truth when it would be reasonably expected that you will not make the omission, would leave right thinking people to conclude that you have something to hide. He would have made a very interest witness in a court of law with his first statement and then this one,” said Gonsalves, a lawyer.
Gonsalves further noted that the producer of the BBC programme for which Hill and Kenyon work had told I-Witness News that none of his staff know of a video in which the reported allegation against Gonsalves is made.
“Interestingly, he didn’t say that he asked the journalist whether in fact Mr. Eustace had said so,” Gonsalves said in reference to the to BBC producer.
Read: Producer says BBC has no video of bribe accusation
Gonsalves said that the “equivocating response” by the BBC producer and “the new disclosure by Mr. Eustace that he had in fact discussed the matter led me to make a telephone call to the same professional gentleman who had first of all been my source, that he was present on Wednesday evening at the hotel of Mr. Kenyon and saw the video”.
Gonsalves said that the “professional gentleman” has said he is willing to say publicly what he saw at the hotel, where the video of the reported allegation was allegedly displayed.
“Of course, we will know what was said or we may not know what was said because a full conversation of that interview may or may not see the light of day,” Gonsalves said.
Issue No. 4
Gonsalves said another issues is “the context and sub-text, which united the NDP’s opportunism and the BBC’s journalists arrogant, baronial, colonial behaviour under the guise of investigative journalism”.
The BBC journalists came to St. Vincent as part of a “Panarama” programme about Harlequin Property, which owns Buccament Bay Resort.
Gonsalves said he was he not the journalists’ concern her.
“They are looking into problems which they believe exist with Ames and Harlequin. But, if they can come down here and get some dirt which suggests that Ralph is somehow in an unholy cahoots with Dave Ames and Harlequin, it gives their story an nice spin.
“And, in the case of Eustace and the NDP, they’re not so concerned about Ames, you know. You don’t hear, ‘Ralph will demit office, that is what they want,’” Gonsalves said.
“The problem with them is this: they get a little snippet of something and none of them put on their thinking cap. They rush, going around believing … I have him,” he further said.
Issue No. 5
The final issues, Gonsalves said, relates to the Buccament Bay Resort project, Ames, and their challenges.
“Whatever problems they have in the UK, Mr Ames and any investor, that is for them to resolve. Up to now, the British government has not sent anything to me to say that Ames has been investigated or being investigated for anything on the criminal side,” he said.
He further noted that there are a lot of “fights going on with former employees and with contractors and with some investors.
“These are legal battles which they have,” Gonsalves said.
“The point is this, Mr. Ames and his group are persons which the government of Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines would bring and investment.
“It is not that St. Vincent and the Grenadines has Ames and Harlequin and others say ‘No, no, no; we keep out hands off them’,” Gonsalves further said, noting that Harlequin also has investment in Barbados, St. Lucia.
“These are government which have also made their check,” he further said.