Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, is doing a lot of serious work amidst the unfolding scandal in which former model Yugge Farrell, 22, has said that they had an extramarital relationship.
“The most important of the work he is doing, working with the staff and with sections of the public, doing consultations with business folk, labour unions and putting together his budget, which is his ministerial responsibility,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said on Boom FM on Monday.
The prime minister had emerged as spokesperson for his 44-year-old son and finance minister, whom he said he has instructed to maintain a “dignified silence” for the time being.
“The Estimates go to the printers sometime this week. In fact, he was supposed to be at a function last night, he begged off because he was writing, he was preparing — an optional function,” Gonsalves said in the call on Monday.
“Sometimes, on certain matters, you just keep a dignified silence and you proceed with your work,” the prime minister said.
The scandal broke with the Jan. 4 arrest of Farrell who was subsequently charged that she used abusive language, to wit, “you dirty b***h” to Camillo’s wife, Karen Duncan-Gonsalves, a senior crown counsel, at her workplace, the Attorney General’s Chambers.
At Farrell’s Jan. 5 arraignment, Kingstown Magistrate Bertie Pompey granted, in the absence of supporting evidence, an application to send Farrell for two weeks of psychiatric evaluation.
Farrell’s lawyer, Grant Connell had objected strenuously to the application.
The development has dominated public discussion ever since Jan. 5.
On Jan. 6, while Farrell was hospitalised, a number of videos — apparently recorded at the psychiatric hospital — appeared on the internet in which Farrell said, among other things, that she had a sexual relationship with Camillo that ended in 2016.
Farrell is expected to return to court next Monday.
The prime minister said he thinks that the saga would “absolutely not” affect Camillo in the future.
Camillo was elected in December 2015 as Member of Parliament for East St. George and emerged as the candidate to secure the absolute highest number of votes — two years after he was appointed to the senate and made Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Gonsalves said that many persons who he said had taken hard line positions when the scandals just broke were becoming more moderate.
“… already, many who are — I’m not talking about the internet crazies who are lodged inside the NDP column. There are many internet crazies — there are many persons who went off half cocked, as I said the other day on one of the radio stations, backing back, like we would say in Colonarie, like soldier crabs, trying to change the narrative about what they are saying, raising all sorts of issues now.”
‘trying to dance on the head of a pin’
But Daniel Cummings, chair of the main opposition New Democratic Party, dismissed the prime minister’s comments on the scandal.
“The son must, of his own accord, freely come and tell us truthfully what actually happened,” said Cummings, who, as Member of Parliament for West Kingstown, is Farrell’s parliamentary representative,
“That’s what we, as a people, want to hear. This is not some banana republic where you have a kingdom where a family can do what they want and get away with anything. Come and tell the people what is going on. That is what we want to hear.”
He reiterated his call for the finance minister to give an account of himself to the public.
“That is for Camillo Gonsalves to say. I think, you see, the prime minister, in his usual way, is trying to dance on the head of a pin,” the opposition whip said.
“I am not here concerned or preoccupied with legalese. I don’t want to hear that. I want to hear reality. I want to hear what happened between Camillo Gonsalves and the young lady or what didn’t happen between them.
“I want to hear whether the accusations made by the young lady are valid or not. That’s what I want to hear and that’s what the people want to hear. The people want to know if it is fact that the minister of finance is engaged in sordid affairs, as alleged by the young lady. That is what the people want to hear.”
Camillo, who was made finance minister last November, is expected to present his first Budget on Feb. 5, following the debate of the estimates on Jan. 29.
He said he expected the minister to make a statement on the scandal ahead of the Jan. 29 meeting of the national assembly.
“You can’t go on being a minister with these things hanging over your neck,” said Cummings, whose party has called upon Camillo to explain himself or resign.