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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves speaks at the town hall meeting in New York on Saturday. (Photo: Garnes Byron/Facebook)
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves speaks at the town hall meeting in New York on Saturday. (Photo: Garnes Byron/Facebook)
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There was no question period at Prime Minster Ralph Gonsalves’ town hall meeting with Vincentians in New York last Friday, one year after the prime minister did not hold the formerly annual event at all. 

In his 90-minute speech at the town hall meeting last Saturday, which was branded “An evening with the Prime Minister”, Gonsalves he spoke about a range of issues, but said nothing particularly new.

Gonsalves explained on WE FM this week the absence of the usual question and answer session at the end of his speech.   

“I didn’t take any questions. What happened is we did an evening in a different way. What I have found is that, and the organisers, they find that we don’t have enough time, with people who are meeting and greeting,” the prime minister said.

“So that when you do it and you take the questions, almost immediately after, we have to leave but I spent a good hour or so after my speech mingling, talking to people about all the individual concerns and lots of photographs.

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“I have lot of messages which I have to deliver to people at home, you know that kind ah way. And they had snacks and drinks and so forth afterwards,” Gonsalves further stated.

“So after I spoke, they had cultural performances and then I mingled nuh,” he said.

The absence of a question and answer period might have thwarted a threat by New York-based Vincentians who oppose Gonsalves and his government to disrupt the meeting with protest and to ask Gonsalves embarrassing questions.

It is the second consecutive year that Vincentians in New York have been denied an opportunity to question the prime minister in a public way about development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

In 2018, Gonsalves failed to have a town hall meeting at all, choosing instead to meet with Vincentians — ostensibly supporters of his government — in small groups in a private home.

Last year, some of Gonsalves’ political opponents had indicated via social media their intention to mount a protest at the town hall meeting and to ask him potentially embarrassing questions.

Gonsalves, however, said that the decision not to have a town hall meeting in 2018 had nothing to do with any possible protest.

“New York City is very favourable territory for De Comrade and for the ULP. And any few persons who want to come, if I am holding a town hall meeting to disrupt it, the ULP supporters will put them under manners and other decent people would do so. So I don’t have to worry ‘bout nothin’,” Gonsalves told the media in Kingstown in October 2018.

In recent years, some of Gonsalves’ annual town hall meetings have become noisy affairs during the question and answer period.

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A section of the audience at Saturday’s town hall meeting in New York. (Photo: Garnes Byron/Facebook)

In 2016, New York-based Vincentian, Miranda Wood, spoke through jeers and boos from Gonsalves’ supporters as she said at his town hall meeting in New York that he had “attacked” her when she visited his law office in Kingstown when she was 15 years old.

As the jeering continued, Gonsalves said, “Hold on, hold on,” to bring quiet to the auditorium again.

“Miss,” Gonsalves said and beseeched to the crowd to be quiet as some of his words became difficult to understand. “I will simply say that you can make an allegation that is not true,” Gonsalves told the then 47-year-old woman.

The question and answer period of town hall meetings that Vincentian politicians have held in New York have produced some interesting developments.

In 2015, when asked about his development plan for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, then opposition leader Arnhim Eustace told the questioner to “Ask Ralph for his.”

Eustace’s response was shortened to “Ask Ralph”, which became a main campaign slogan for Gonsalves’ ULP in the 2015 election, which saw the party returned to office for a fourth consecutive term.

8 replies on “No Q&A at PM’s town hall meeting in New York”

  1. It would appear that Vincentians in Toronto has to book GO-BY-Bus trips to New York if we wish to attend a Town Hall meeting with PM Gonsalves. During the 60s, 70s, 80s and early 90s Toronto was the customary destination for our PMs Visits and it is very unfortunate that we have not maintaining the connections.
    I however cannot help but wonder if today’s standard has to do with modifications to the mandate of the SVG Toronto Consulate headquarters? Irrespective, representatives are not the PM and never achieve the same results. The SVG Governor General visited us about 10 years ago which brought out in excess of 500 in attendance at the annual independence gala, since then the attendance has been about 250 at its best.

    1. Elma, I have heard that for some reason our Prime Minister is not allowed into Canada[…]. That is why he has not been to Canada in approximately a decade. Our PM not being allowed into Canada is a BIG thing! […]

  2. Aaah come on man speak the truth! you were scared someone in the audience would ask an embarrassing question that you can’t answer. What kind of dictatorship crap is that. You want to prattle like a parrot, but the audience can’t ask you a question?

  3. Not just confirmation of the cowardice of the man. But confirmation of all those who supported his action in NewYorks meeting.

  4. Why in the first place would any self-respecting Vincentian want to book a GO-BY-Bus trip to New York to attend a Town Hall meeting with PM Gonsalves ELMA? What would they learn from PM Gonsalves that they could not gather from a trip home or from reading

    Moreover, they are more likely to be flattered by hearing half-truths and be persuaded that SVG is now mixing and hobnobbing it with the big boys, and that all is well back home now that SVG have implemented a vibrant social welfare system, the envy of all its neighbours.

    The way with all dictators is that they do not like to be questioned but loves talking at lengths. Giving long speeches explaining how well the citizenry are doing, when in reality, fear, poverty and hunger is often what is being delivered at home, as they build their dynasties.

    We saw the examples in Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier in Haiti, with Fidel Castro in Cuba, Adolph Hitler in Germany, with Joseph Stalin in the USSR, with The Kim Dynasty of North Korea and recently with Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe to name but a few. Not to forget Maduro in Venezuela and Chavez before him who would give long lengthy speeches that went on for hour and hours.

    Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier brutally dominated Haiti using violence and voodoo.

    National Socialism was Socialism no denying it, and is just a different side of the same coin. Our esteem PM prides himself as a socialist but in truth, he is nothing but an old fashioned dictator in the tradition of Adolph Hitler in Germany and Joseph Stalin of the former USSR.

    Power hungry former president Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe would not entertain questioning but ignored the suffering of the people very much like the Kim Dynasty of North Korea. And who would dare to question the Maduro regime in Venezuela in his holds on power while the people’s daily struggle for food continues apace!

    Rather than booking a GO-BY-Bus trip to New York to attend a Town Hall meeting with PM Gonsalves, Vincentians with a modicum of savvy should be asking themselves, how had we arrived where we are today, being ruled over by a single family, in an unaccountable dictatorship for so long.

  5. He will never go to Canada, frightened he will be grabbed to answer the accusations of most serious sexual assault crimes against a Canadian lady lawyer. We know as a diplomat he can not be held for rape or murder, but its the embarrassment and international news reports that he would attract.

    So it really is up the Canadians to go to New York.

    Remember a Vincentian lady came forward at a previous New York meeting and accused him of sexual assault when she was just fifteen years old.

    With any stroke of luck eventually the US will sanction him for his help and assistance to Cuba and the Venezuelan leader Maduro.

  6. Y these Vincy away lose there way of thinking…he having a meeting with the people but only he alone can speak what fart is that…an them still sit an listen to he waste of time

  7. Just a question let’s say that the PM was guilty of the alleged offense, wold he not.protected by diplomatic immunity?

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