The death of former Unity Labour Party (ULP) South Leeward councillor, Edgar Cruickshank at a New Democratic Party (NDP) political meeting in Clare Valley on Saturday was the result of a “freak” accident that had nothing to do with the ULP, party general secretary Julian Francis has said.
“This party had absolutely nothing to do [with it]. Ralph Gonsalves or Julian Francis or anybody else in the leadership of the party; because the two names they are calling is Julian and Ralph.
“I ain’t including no other names, because that’s who they are accusing. And the statements they have made, they are subject to paying for their tongue. Some of them must pay for their tongue,” Francis said on his radio programme on Tuesday.
Cruickshank, a 78-year-old retiree of Questelles, died in hospital after being injured when a vehicle crashed into the crowd at the meeting.
Several other persons were also injured.
Cruickshank was attending his first political meeting of the NDP since he began campaigning with Member of Parliament for South Leeward, Nigel Stephenson of the NDP.
Cruickshank this year registered with I-Witness News his displeasure with the candidate selection progress in South Leeward, in which Sen. Jomo Thomas emerged as the ULP’s candidate, ahead of Grenville Williams, who Cruickshank favoured.
Williams had nominated Thomas at the constituency conference, although he did so with very little noticeable magnanimity.
“This Unity Labour Party is not, and has no reason to go on the defensive on this matter; absolutely no reason,” Francis said of Cruickshank’s death.
“And it is our commitment to Edgar Cruickshank that we will give him his final rites as a comrade of the Unity Labour Party. He is the man who wore the most red in this country — morning, noon and night. He took them off over the last couple of weeks, because he was upset,” Francis said.
“… this Unity Labour Party takes care of its own. Always do. We always do, and everybody knows that — both NDP and Labour people know that. [We] don’t make no excuse for it. So, the NDP in their desperation is trying to squeeze as much mileage and sympathy out of this accident that took place at their meeting that they want to lay blame of terrorism at the foot of Ralph Gonsalves and Julian Francis.
“Well, the police will carry out their investigation, the truth will be told,” he said.
“Naturally, because of what was happening with Crookie, it is a freak, as far as I would describe it, that out of this whole crowd that the person to have died from the accident was Cruickshank.
“And all sorts of persons may say all sorts of things, but that’s sheer coincidence,” he said.
Francis, however, suggested that he understands the concerns of some person after the incident.
“… as general secretary of a political party, … if we are having a political meeting somewhere and an accident takes place and persons in the crowd get damage, someone dies, that we will be very shaken up, we will be very upset and concerned, but we will not be making and become stupid and make desperate statements and take desperate positions,” he said .
He accused the NDP of “doing what they are doing out of sheer desperation”, adding that the party was trying to “squeeze political mileage and sympathy out of people”, but said that this will not work.
Francis said that the leaders of the NDP who were in Clare Valley and the party leadership generally “know that this is not a set up, as they are putting it”.
He told his listeners that it is being said that “there is a conspiracy and that persons were set up.
“… they have gone as far as saying that it was organised and in some cases, said to get rid of Crookie,” Francis further said, using Cruickshank’s nickname.
“But you don’t get rid of somebody you love,” Francis said.
The ULP official said Cruickshank had objected to the ULP running then incumbent South Leeward MP, Douglas Slater in 2005 and carried out a campaign against Slater, and was upset when Slater was selected, but voted for ULP in the 2005 and 2010 general elections.
“We know the circumstances in which Crookie got annoyed with us over the selection of Jomo as the candidate for South Leeward over Grenville Williams, who he personally supported, and he got pretty upset over it,” Francis said of Cruickshank’s most recent fallout with the party.
“But I say remember what happened in 2005 with Dougie (Slater), and in my own mind, I am convinced that had Crookie been around, whenever the elections were called, Crookie would have voted Labour,” Francis said.
Francis, a senator who is also Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport and Work, said that he does not only have official information about the incident in which Cruickshank met his death.
He said he visited the site in Clare Valley on Sunday and spoke to persons and to many persons in and around south leeward.
“And when I say based on information I have — information I have gathered from my different discussions and conversations with persons — I am convinced that it was a genuine accident, and nobody is going to drive me away from that,” Francis said.
“This is not a statement to influence the investigation. The police have the matter in hand and it is an investigation that is on-going, and when the NDP wants to turn that on its head, out of sheer desperation and the need to squeeze political mileage and sympathy out of people, it won’t work.”
Francis said he listened to Opposition Leader and President of the NDP, Arnhim Eustace on radio on Monday.
“They are bent on carrying this things that it was set up by the Unity Labour Party, that it was a suicide attack, that it was a terrorist attack, that we set it up, Ralph and Julian and others. That’s what their crazies on the Internet are saying, and some local ones too…” he said, supposedly of NDP supporters.
“He (Eustace) never rebuked a single soul about any statement that was made on the weekend. And I am sure that he is aware of all that is happening on Facebook and the social media. He knows it. Vynnette (NDP spokesperson, Sen. Vynnette Frederick) will brief him,” Francis said.
Francis expressed condolences to Cruickshank’s widow, Cecelia and the rest of his family.
“I want you to be strong and take care of yourself. We love you very much, and we know that you love us very much.
“It is sad to see Crookie go, but these are things over which we have absolutely no control,” he said.