Edgar Cruickshank, who died of injuries he sustained when a vehicle crashed into a New Democratic Party (NDP) meeting in Clare Valley, Saturday night, was a supporter of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) up to the time of his death, says Prime Minister and ULP leader, Ralph Gonsalves.
Gonsalves, speaking on radio from Cuba on Monday, sought to dismiss statements in the media that Cruickshank, a former ULP council member in South Leeward, had thrown his support behind the NDP’s Nigel “Nature” Stephenson — the incumbent MP for South Leeward.
Police said on Monday that they are “investigating the circumstances surrounding a fatal motor vehicular accident involving motor vehicle P 7516, driven by Antoine Anthony of Questelles and pedestrian Edgar Cruickshank, 78 years, retired, of Questelles” which occurred along the Clare Valley public road on Dec. 6.
“Motor vehicle P 7516 collided with Cruickshank and other pedestrians at a public meeting in Clare Valley. Cruickshank succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead on arrival at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital. Four other persons sustained serious injuries about their bodies and are patients at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.”
Saturday’s meeting was the first NDP rally that Cruickshank is known to have attended in recent time, and Stephenson pointed this out at the meeting.
Gonsalves, in his call, expressed his solidarity with Cruickshank’s family, saying he feels their sorrow and pain
“And also to say that the persons who are injured, including the little boy, they are in my prayers. I feel for them,” he said in reference to the 4-year-old son of the driver of the vehicle who was also in the vehicle at the time of the incident.
Gonsalves said Cruickshank has been his close friend for 30 years. “He was a good contractor. He was a good and disciplined worker,” he said of the former police officer, whom he also described as a fantastic cover fieldsman in cricket.
He also said Cruickshank was a good husband, father, and grandfather. “He was, and up to the time of his death, remained a member and supporter of the Unity Labour Party,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves statement came even as Cruickshank was actively and openly campaigning for Stephenson in South Leeward.
Earlier this year, Cruickshank registered with I-Witness News his objection to a poll being used to select the ULP’s candidate in South Leeward, saying it was unfair to Grenville Williams, who Cruickshank favoured as the candidate. Williams and Thomas had both agreed to accept the results of the poll.
The ULP said a poll it conducted showed that Sen. Jomo Thomas was most favoured to win the seat, and Williams nominated Thomas as the candidate at the ULP’s constituency conference in July.
But Gonsalves said that while there was talk that Cruickshank had stopped supporting the ULP, 10 days before Cruickshank’s death, he told the ULP leader that this was not the case.
“He said, ‘Commander, don’t pay any attention to that. That is divide and rule.’ He said, ‘I am with you from the beginning, I am with you in the middle, and at the end’,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves said that when he asked Cruickshank about reports that he was driving about with Stephenson, Cruickshank said, “Comrade, I am with you, believe me when I tell you that.’”
Gonsalves said he knows that Cruickshank would not have supported anyone else in the election with Gonsalves leading the ULP. “He never would have voted for anybody associated with the NDP and Arnhim Eustace. I know that as a fact. As the sun rises tomorrow, I have that certainty,” Gonsalves said.
“There are certain people who wanted to have Edgar as a political mascot — I am talking about people in the opposition — and he would have been too smart and cunning for them,” Gonsalves said, saying that people should not believe that Cruickshank had stopped supporting the ULP.
Gonsalves, however, said Cruickshank was a man with strong opinions, who in 2005 opposed Douglas Slater’s bid on a ULP ticket for a second term as the MP for South Leeward.
Gonsalves said Cruickshank felt that Slater was not a good constituency representative in his first term (2001-20050, but supported the former MP after he (Gonsalves) asked him to do so.
Cruickshank told I-Witness News this year that he and other party heavyweights in South Leeward rebuffed in 2010 an attempt by then MP for Central Leeward, Sir Louis Straker, to shift from Central to South Leeward.
Straker, who had represented Central Leeward since 1994, did not contest the 2010 poll.
Gonsalves sought to downplay Cruickshank’s presence at the NDP meeting.
“There are people who attend public meetings. Labour people attend NDP public meetings and NDP people attend Labour public meetings,” he said.
He also responded to statements and suggestions in some circles that the incident on Saturday was more than an accident.
“People want to put all kind of nefarious meaning behind a traffic accident. At least that is what is clear, and if people would do things like that — Internet crazies, opposition folk under the radar — it just tells you the extent to which people will go to tarnish other people’s names and to bring down Edgar himself in the esteem of his family and his dear friends.
“And this incident, I am sure that the police and the DPP will do their work dispassionately and I await the outcome of this particular matter.
“I don’t want to talk at this point about what has come to my knowledge, naturally, as prime minister, about the particular case, just to say that Edgar shouldn’t have met his death this way, it’s [a] painful one for me and it is a painful one for his family. Accidents do happen and sometimes these things hit us like a bolt from the blue,” Gonsalves said.