An opposition lawmaker is urging Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves to follow the advice he gave to then Attorney General Parnell Campbell 23 years to not go about finding refuge only in legalism.
Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, a senator for the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), speaking at a press conference on Friday, said, “It’s very interesting to see how Dr. Gonsalves speaks on the other side of his tongue when it suits him.”
She was speaking about the prime minister’s response to the opposition’s motion of no confidence that came up for debate on Jan. 31.
Gonsalves initially argued that the opposition needed to get the support of the majority of elected lawmakers before the motion could be debated.
However, Speaker, Jomo Thomas ruled against the prime minister on this point, noting that the parliament has a tradition of debating motions of no confidence, including two Gonsalves had brought while he was an opposition lawmaker.
However, the prime minister succeeded in amending the opposition’s motion of no confidence, effectively turning it into a motion of confidence in itself.
Government lawmakers passed the motion in the absence of their opposition counterparts who boycotted the debate.
The prime minister has cited a number of legal opinions, including one by Campbell, which he said supported his government’s actions in Parliament on Jan. 31.
However, Bacchus-Baptiste, told the media that to show that the prime minister’s action to close out the opposition’s motion of no confidence “is not genuine, it is just political”, she went back to the Hansard for the meeting of Parliament on Aug. 15, 1995.
On that day, Parliament was debating a motion of no confidence brought by Gonsalves, targeting Campbell, who had borrowed money from an offshore bank that was based in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Gonsalves, then an opposition lawmaker who has been elected to parliament just over a year earlier, in February 1994, argued that an offshore bank couldn’t properly lend money to any person living in SVG.
“They don’t usually do it for the simple reason that even though the law does not prohibit offshore lending, those who receive money can’t pay it back because the offshore banks cannot, under law, receive funds from anyone resident in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves said.
Bacchus-Baptiste quoted the Hansard and what Gonsalves had told Parliament in 1995.
“This morning, we listened for an hour or thereabout not to a defence by the Honourable Parnell Campbell, the Attorney General, but what we got was a plea in mitigation, he came to us he said, I borrowed the money, he said have some sympathy on me, things hard with me, I am a poor boy, life is rough so when I ran into difficult, I went to them. That is what we got. He mixed it with a lot of legalism and saying I have done nothing illegal, therefore if I have done nothing illegal, I have not done anything wrong against the public wheel.
“As we all know there are things, which are legal but are wrong in your sight in this House and in the sight of the People. Any time a man reaches the end of intellectual and moral tether to find a refuge only in legalisms it is time for him to go.”
“I would like Dr. Gonsalves to take his own words… And in this case, there were five legal opinions about the matter in favour of what Parnel Campbell had done and he called out the names of the lawyers. Five! He has three now. But he ignored the five then, he said it was just legalism. So I will put back his own words to him.”