Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says he wants to attend the funeral of his one-time political ally Elwardo “E.G” Lynch, but will not do so if his presence will cause persons to behave in undignified manner.
Lynch left Gonsalves’ now defunct Movement For National Unity (MNU) in 1989 and joined the New Democratic Party (NDP) and went on to become the party’s spokesperson, and hosted its radio programme for 11 years.
He died last Wednesday at age 70, months after a series of stroke left him immobile and speechless. He will be buried in Georgetown on Saturday after a funeral service at the Georgetown Anglican Church at 1 p.m.
As host of the NDP’s radio programme, “New Times”, and a political archrival of Gonsalves’, Lynch and Nice Radio, which broadcast the programme, was sued several times.
In 2013, the station paid Gonsalves EC$206,000 for defamation as a result of comments that Lynch made about financing for a trip to Rome for members of Gonsalves’ family.
Some persons, including activist for the NDP, have advocated on social media that Gonsalves be booed if he attends the funeral.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Gonsalves reiterated his condolences to Lynch’s family, which he first expressed on radio during a call from Ecuador.
Gonsalves, who was in Ecuador when Lynch died, said that since returning to St. Vincent and the Grenadines Sunday night, he spoke to Lynch’s son-in-law, Grenville Williams (who is vying to be the candidate for the Gonsalves-led Unity labour Party in South Leeward in the next general elections).
Williams’ wife, Shafia London-Williams, was overseas on business trip, Gonsalves noted.
Gonsalves said he was not at liberty to say what he discussed with the deceased activist’s son-in-law.
“I knew Eduardo for a very long time. A lot of people may not know this, Elwardo was an MNU man, you know. And when his partner Jonathan Peters came, is Jonathan Peters who moved him to the NDP in 1989 and that is where he stayed from 1989,” Gonsalves said.
He said that while there were “all the controversies and things said in the political arena” when he met Lynch, they spoke normally.
Gonsalves said he visited Lynch twice in hospital when he suffered a stroke while hosting New Times in late 2012.
PM visited Lynch
The Prime Minister said he also visited Lynch at the nursing home at the end of April, but would not speak about what transpired during any of the visits.
“I went and saw the left hand was moving a little so and I put my hand in his and spoke, and at intervals he will squeeze my hands as to indicate that he was hearing,” Gonsalves said.
“He had time, if it was necessary, for him to make his peace with God and I hope that all of us will have our opportunity to make our peace with God, put our situation right.
“I don’t want to say anything else in relation to that or even to response to some of the things that are being written. There may be an occasion for that, but on this occasion, we express our condolences to his family,” Gonsalves said.
Desire to attend funeral
Asked specifically if he plans to attend the funeral, which will be held this Saturday in Georgetown, Gonsalves said:
“People who I have known, so long as I don’t have some important matter dealing with at the time which I have to attend in capacity as Prime Minister, as a father, as a husband, as a friend or something, I want to attend the funeral.
“I must say to you what is of worry to me,” he said, and went on to speak of an article in Searchlight newspaper, in which he said the writer, who “seems to consider himself the conscience of the nation, … but basically clothe political bias and partisan bile in all kind of language” sought to “put at my door as though I am the man responsible for killing Lynch.
“… When they seeking to agitate people like that, the question which a reasonable person would ask himself, would in going to funeral, which is supposed to be a dignified event, would your presence engender the response from some persons which should undermine the dignity of such an event to which we are all accustomed in our civilisation?”
Gonsalves said that among the things on which our civilisation is judged is the manner in which we bury our dead.
“And that is supposed to be a dignified event, without any rancour. But even before I am even present, there are persons who are supposed to be responsible want to agitate to encourage rancour, I have to make the decision would my presence contribute to some of these persons winding up people to create a lack of dignity, where Elwardo Lynch deserves, like all of us, a decent dignified Christian burial.”
Time to ‘pause’ controversies
Gonsalves said that when someone, whom he did not identify, was asked why that person didn’t attend the funeral of former press secretary to Gonsalves, Glenn Jackson, that person responded by saying they choose which funerals to attend.
“I am a public figure, it is obvious that if I were to be present at Lynch’s funeral, apart from the fact that he used to be an MNU man, despite all the controversies and conflict between us, there is a time when you pause on all these things, and in our tradition in in our civilisation, this is the time you pause.”
Gonsalves said when he went to see Lynch at the hospital, Lynch cried.
“Now, I don’t know what I will do, come Saturday, but I have given you all the circumstances, and I don’t know about my own availability at that particular point in time, because sometimes I intend to go to a funeral and sometimes something urgent happens and I have to deal with it.”
‘insults’ at Saluche’s funeral
Gonsalves, however, noted that when in January 2007 he attended the funeral of comedian and NDP activist, Lucien “Saluche” Small, there were people there who, “as I turned up, where hurling insults at me — a few NDP persons.
“In fact, the pastor the day had to reproach a number of them to remind them that this is a place of worship.
“… people will have to decide whether they are going to allow certain elements to undermine and distort and make a mockery out of what, in our civilisation, which each of us as believers should have, a dignified Christian burial.
No malice towards Lynch
“I was free of any malice to Elwardo Lynch when he was alive, and, of course, I can’t have malice against somebody who is dead. And I can’t go into the issue here as to the nature of our controversies; that is a matter at this point to leave those to rest.
“You can always have the arguments, after — did he do right? Did I do right?”
Gonsalves said some persons “manufacturing this hate” for him, but Lynch’s daughter called his office to inform him that Lynch had died.
He further said that he informed London-Williams when he was going to visit Lynch at the nursing home.
“She said, ‘It would be a very good thing for you to go see him, Prime Minister’,” Gonsalves said, noting that he was the only politician at the Williams’ wedding.
“People take on certain things and they behave in certain ways.
“I am the prime minister; I know I am a focal point for a lot of people who want to get the government out of office, and they conjure up and they demonise things in relation to me and do not give the benefit of the doubt on anything, absolutely.
“But I am a human being who did not drop out of the sky into the office of the prime minister and I am not robotic…
“I hope that when I get to Heaven I will see my brother Elwardo there too,” Gonsalves said.