Following a spate of crimes that left nine persons dead and four injured in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in September, Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday, last week, blamed Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves for the nation’s crime situation.
In making his case at a press conference on Thursday, Friday noted that when Gonsalves, who is now Minister of National Security, was in opposition, he blamed then Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Sir James Mitchell and police chief Randolph Toussaint for the nation’s crime problem.
But Gonsalves, speaking on Xtreme FM on Friday, denied having done so.
“When somebody says that it’s Ralph fault, how does it become my fault?” said Gonsalves, who came to office in March 2001, after 17 years of NDP rule.
“And they would throw in my face, as I have seen, as I have heard certain comments, that oh when I was in the opposition I said that Toussaint and Mitchell responsible for the crime. I never said that,” the prime minister said.
“What I would have said — not that it matters, what I would have said is that they didn’t have the police force sufficiently resourced, they didn’t have it sufficiently modernised and that is somewhat we need to look at and that there were problems which had to be dealt with, of a legal nature.”
He further said that the police force, under his Unity Labour Party administration, is far better resourced than before.
“And we need to do, we need, on an on-going basis to be doing more and better in respect of the technology and equipment,” the prime minister said.
But a recording quickly resurfaced of a then opposition leader Gonsalves blaming Mitchell and Toussaint for the nation’s drug problem.
In the recording, Gonsalves said that when the NDP came to power (in 1984), there were no prosecutions for cocaine.
“In fact, in 1986, Randolph Toussaint, commissioner of police, said there is no cocaine problem. We see what the situation is like now: there are a lot of cocaine jumbies, cocaine mules and so on and so forth. And all this thing has happened under the watch of Randolph Toussaint as commissioner of police and James Mitchell as minister of national security.
“So that when you call James Mitchell name, when you call Randolph Toussaint name, you associate them in historical terms with the tremendous growth of cocaine and drugs in this country in the sense that they have the responsibility to stop the drugs from coming in. If they do not stop the cocaine coming in, it has to be their fault because they are in charge of the security arrangements so to do. And one of the first responsibilities of any serious government is to provide proper security for its citizens,” the then opposition leader Gonsalves said.
At his press conference, Friday noted the ULP’s stance while in opposition.
“Murders, drug trafficking, burglaries, you name it, it was Mitchell’s and Toussaint’s fault. Who must take responsibility now? Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, as Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, must bear responsibility for the situation in the country. As Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, he has permitted the situation to get out of hand and evidently can no longer control it,” Friday said.
He noted that after the 1998 general elections, which the ULP lost by one seat while winning the popular vote, the party’s leaders said they would make this country “ungovernable”.
“People heard that call to lawlessness. I say ‘lawlessness’ because it is only lawlessness that can make a country ungovernable,” Friday said.
“Now that the ULP holds the reins of government, they find that the chickens have come home to roost, and they are now powerless to do anything about it! How else can we explain initial silence on the matter and, later their response of trying to downplay the situation, by Gonsalves, for example, asking if he must have a press conference every time someone is killed; or Senator [Julian] Francis saying on radio that the shootings are not intended for innocent persons but are gang and drug related.
“Does that make it less of a problem? Do the rest of society — the innocents — throw up our hands, lock ourselves in our homes at night and let the carnage rage outside? Surely such an approach is an admission of governmental incompetence and failure!” the opposition leader told the media.