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  • Ex-PM wanted to prove to the Organisation Defence of Democracy ‘that they were a waste of time’.
  • ‘The only person I made prime minister was Arnhim Eustace, and he made himself Leader of the Opposition three times.’ — Sir James
Former prime minister, Sir James Mitchell (File photo by Ovid Burke).
Former prime minister, Sir James Mitchell (File photo by Ovid Burke).

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 3, IWN — He has never said so publicly, but Arnhim Eustace agreed to early elections amidst the political unrest of 2000 — “The Roadblock Revolution”–, former prime minister Sir James Mitchell says.

Sir James made the revelation on IK TV’s “Unrendered”, broadcast on Sunday.

Sir James was leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) government when it came under strain in 2000, as political and social groups protested against the government’s proposal to increase pensions and gratuity payments for parliamentarians.

The unrest, which saw the roads to capital city Kingstown blocked, grinding the economy to a halt, forced the government to hold talks in Grenada, with the ensuing agreement popularly terms the “Grand Beache Accord”.

Not much is known of what Sir James, now retired, and then opposition leader, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, discussed while walking along Grand Beach, when they reached a deal.

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And, Sir James has written about The Roadblock Revolution in his latest publication, a booklet titled “St. Vincent and the Grenadines the Ungovernable”,

During the IK TV interview, Sir James, again voiced his dissatisfaction with the performance of now Opposition Leader, Arnhim Eustace, who he handpicked as his successor in 2000, and who has since led the NDP, which Sir James founded in 1975, to three successive electoral defeats.

Read: NDP founder again calls for Eustace to go

“Now, first of all, I found him a very safe constituency,” Sir James said of Eustace.

He said that in getting Eustace to run in East Kingstown — which he has been representing since 1998 — he had to get Carlyle Dougan to accept a diplomatic post.

(Dougan agreed to be the nation’s envoy to the United Kingdom, Sir James said.)

Sir James said this maneuverer was necessary after former attorney general and Central Kingstown representative Parnell “P.R.” Campbell — the heir presumptive — “got into difficulty”.

“I was having difficulty deciding who would take over. I wanted to go. But I will say also that while I was in [Grenada] with this Grand Beach Accord — what I called declaration; I declared my innings close — I called Arnhim you know. He agreed with me to shorten the life of the Parliament but he has never made a public statement about that,” Sir James said.

Asked if Eustace’s failure to make such a public statement angers him, Sir James, who was prime minister from 1984 to Oct. 27, 2000, said:

“I don’t get angry at anything. It is sad. These things are. … I don’t hate anybody and I don’t get angry.”

Sir James said that by the time of the unrest he was “already set in my mind that my ministers needed their own mandate.”

And feeling unwelcomed in the Cabinet he headed, Sir James concluded: “It was time for me to go home.”

Sir James also said he chose to walk along the beach with Gonsalves to show the now defunct Organisation in Defence of Democracy (O.D.D.) that they were useless.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace (File montage).
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace (File montage).

“When we finally went down to Grenada for that meeting, there was this great Organisation in Defence of Democracy and I wanted to prove to all of them in that organisation that they were a waste of time. The person to deal with was Ralph Gonsalves; not them; I wanted to demonstrate to them in Grenada that they were no use,” he further said.

“The Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, is there today. Our meeting on the beach didn’t take more than a minute but, what annoyed me, and one of the things that triggered me to do this (write the booklet) was the attack on my daughter, Louise [Mitchell-Joseph].

“And they keep saying that I did a deal for Louise to get a job with Ralph. That is nonsense,” Sir James said, adding that his daughter “was working in South Carolina for US dollars.

“She had a free car, an apartment and making US dollars,” he said, adding that Mitchell-Joseph had an offer to work in London and had worked in the offshore finance sector.

“When she told me she wanted to come back to St. Vincent, I was annoyed. And yet that is the framework in which they think I did a deal with Ralph…

“How could I have been really doing a deal with Ralph when they keep harassing me and I have had to spend a fortune and sell land to protect my name in the Ottley Hall project,” he said of the Gonsalves government’s inquiry into the project.

Asked if the “they” to whom he referred are members of his party or the general public, Sir James said:

“Well, the general public includes members of my party…

“They felt that I handed out something. But, as I say in this booklet, they say that I make Ralph Prime Minister, but Ralph won a popular election; he was elected by the people. The only person I made prime minister was Arnhim Eustace and he made himself Leader of the Opposition three times,” Sir James said.