Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has described as “chalk and cheese” the comparison between the main opposition New Democratic Party’s proposed candidate for East St. George, Colin Graham, and the previous candidate, Linton Lewis — who failed to four times in the St. Gorges constituencies.
His comments on his party’s radio programme, Star FM, on Monday, suggest that Graham is not qualified enough, academically, to be a candidate.
Gonsalves’ suggestion stands in direct contrast to comment he made in 2015, when he said no specific qualifications are necessary for one to become prime minister.
The NDP said Sunday night that Graham was nominated on Thursday but his candidacy is subject to the ratification of the party’s central committee.
If Graham becomes the NDP’s candidate, he will attempt to unseat the prime minister’s son, Camillo Gonsalves, who was elected in the 2015 general election, on his first attempt, and amassed the most votes of any of the candidates in the elections.
Graham, a disk jockey is vying to be a first-time candidate.
Speaking on his party’s radio station, Star FM, Monday morning, the prime minister noted that the discussion surrounded the results of this year’s secondary school leaving examinations.
“Well, you have been talking about A’ level and CXCs. At this time, Colin must celebrate with the students and post his. All these bright young people, nuh. It would be a very good thing for him to post his numbers,” Gonsalves said, laughing.
He said constituents said not to “a formidable NDP candidate, Linton Lewis”.
“Linton was a hometown boy. Linton was a teacher, paid teacher for St. Vincent and the Windward Islands, played football, sang and was part of a band. He did accounting, he was an accountant at the Banana Growers Association, then he helped to set up the IT system at the NCB in the early days. He went away, he did law, ended up doing a PhD in law, worked in the offshore sector here, is an accomplished lawyer, and the people still said no.
“Now, there is no two ways, Linton was a formidable candidate,” Gonsalves said of the man that his son became the second person to defeat in three elections in East St. George and the third to do so in four elections in East and West St. George.
The NDP said that Graham defeated radio personality and host of the party’s daytime radio programme, Clemroy “Bert” Francois and Ingrid Punnett.
Gonsalves said he went to a funeral on Saturday and saw Francois there and he asked him about getting two of the 40 votes in the runoff involving Colin Graham.
“I understand it’s four. I might have devalued the number in the teasing of him. But the point remains,” the prime minister said, laughing, adding, “I mean, it’s a matter of great embarrassment to him.
“But I didn’t want to say anything other than in as much as you are talking about all these accomplished young people, I think what we must do is to ask him to post his O’Level and A’ level results, his associate degree, his post O’Level qualifications and experience and so on so that — to see if they could measure up.
“Really, to leave Linton and go for Colin, you know, the formulation — there may be other formulations that come to your mind, but chalk and cheese come to mind,” Gonsalves said, adding that he is in a generous mood.
Graham is not known to have post A’ Level academic qualifications.
If Gonsalves’ comments were to suggest that one needs post A’Level qualifications to be a suitable candidate in an election, his comment would stand in stark contrast to some made two years ago, months before a general elections.
In response to a question at a Sept. 26, 2015 town hall meeting with Vincentians in Brooklyn, New York, Gonsalves said:
“Look, the job which I am doing, … you don’t need to be a lawyer, and economist, and engineer; yo’ don’t need to have any of those specific training. If you read the book of Daniel, Daniel was a Jew and he and other Jews were in Babylonian captivity; he under King Nebuchadnezzar. And then, a number of young men, including Daniel, they were selected for training to help to run the Persian Kingdom. But by the time Daniel had done his training, Darius was the king.
“The book of Daniel says that he underwent three years of training. You know what he was trained in, Jomo? He was trained in the Babylonian language and literature. That’s what he was trained in. and he was given a scientific understanding of the world in that regard. And read the Bible, and it tells you that Daniel was possessed of exceptional leadership qualities, to such an extent that they put him in charge of the 120 satraps or the provincial administrators. Read it. So, don’t talk to me about yo’ need a specific training.”
To become a candidate in an election in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, one must be 21 years old and must be able to read and write the English language.