Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says either, or all, of his three sons could consider suing a regional news website about a story it published regarding the recall of Peace Corps volunteers from St. Vincent and the Grenadines in late August.
“I would expect, naturally Caribbean News Now, which is a responsible publication, it would, without any request by us, simply do a retraction. Say they are sorry about it,” Gonsalves told a press conference in Kingstown on Monday.
Asked if legal action was being considered against the publication, Gonsalves, who has successfully sued at least one local radio station multiple times, said:
“Well, I would imagine that my son or sons will consult their lawyers, because I only have three so one – it is not a large class or group of people.
“And as an old lawyer, either one to whom the matter points, which I have just given the background, what you would call the extrinsic evidence that one is in Oregon permanently, he has his life there — his professional and business life, Storm went off to England to do something concerning himself, and one is here.
“But it’s easy for all three of them to sue, because you have to say which one of them.”
In a story published last weekend, the news website alleged that a son of the prime minster was involved in alleged untoward acts against the volunteers.
The volunteers were recalled on Aug. 24, four days after a 70-year-old female volunteer, who had arrived in SVG from St. Lucia four days earlier, alleged that two Middle Eastern men assaulted her near the Leeward Bus Terminal in Kingstown about 7 a.m. on Aug. 20.
There is CCTV footage from the scene of the alleged incident, but the recording does not show the alleged assault.
However, health care professionals found that the volunteer had bruises about her body when treated at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital that same morning.
The prime minister said:
“I have been advised that the CCTV footage shows, among other things, what appears to be a bag being placed by the volunteer on a table, the very spot from which the bag was later retrieved. There is no evidence on the CCTV footage of the alleged incident.”
Gonsalves told the press conference that he has read the Caribbean News Now story.
“As the country knows very well that I have three sons, one who is the Minister of Finance, that’s Camillo; Adam, is a professional audio engineer with a business owned by himself and in conjunction with others in Portland, Oregon in the United States, he is not in St. Vincent.
“My third son, Storm, is in St. Vincent, normally resident. But, over the last two to three weeks, he was not in St. Vincent. He is in the United States on a private set of matters.
“So that this dastardly slander, this defamation, this libel, sorry, [is] directed both at me, the government and, of course, Camillo.”
Gonsalves said the “crudeness of the propaganda” of the Caribbean News Now story “is manifest”.
The prime minister said he speaks of the incident as an allegation “because the matter is being investigated with all which that involves”.
Alluding to some of the claims made in the news report, Gonsalves said he doesn’t know if anyone has ever seen Peace Corps volunteers driving vehicles in SVG.
“This 70-year-old later, for instance, came from country to town in a bus. I don’t know where these vehicles, this personal transportation and otherwise of the Peace Corps which are being vandalised by thugs and mongoose gang, and I don’t know the existence of those entities here,” Gonsalves further said, alluding to some of the claims of the story.
“You know, there are some people who it is their business to seek to destabilise governments and societies by conjuring up and making up a whole set of falsehoods. They will not succeed.”
The prime minister said he wanted to assure everyone in St. Vincent and the Grenadines that his government is “very alert to the efforts of anyone who is seeking, for whatever purpose, to sully the good name of St. Vincent and the Grenadines or to seek to generate fear or alarm where none is to be generated.
“Let us just take a deep breath, assess everything, what is before us, help where you consider that you can help the police and allow them to proceed, along with their American friends in getting to the bottom of this alleged incident.”