By Mario Williams
The Prime Minister of SVG loves to talk in public about the goings on in his family. As a matter of fact, he gushes forth news equally about both his personal and political families.
A few days ago he was telling the public about the illnesses of both his lovely wife Eloise and his son Adam (from a former marriage), who is younger brother of Camillo, the Minister of Finance.
Sickness is no “respecter” of persons. At one time or another, everybody must experience this unwelcome intruder into the privacy of their families. So understandably, there is a great deal of sympathy for Gonsalves and his personal family circle and much hope that Eloise and Adam will each recover fully from their conditions and go on to live long and healthy lives.
About three or so years ago, the prime minister was telling the public about the condition in his other family — the political one. Gonsalves is on record as saying that the ULP is his family of which he is the head, an enterprise that he would defend over his biological relatives who do not support him.
During the 2015 election campaign, he made the declaration that it would be his final term as prime minister and he would transition to a new leader ahead of the next general elections, constitutionally due in March 2021, but which he has since promised will take place before end of 2020.
In the meantime, in November 2017, he appointed his eldest son, Camillo, as Minister of Finance and that heightened rumours about his succession. The two ministers who featured as his likely successor were Saboto Ceasar and Camillo Gonsalves.
When he spoke on the cabinet reshuffle on his party’s radio station, amidst widespread speculation about what the move meant, the PM told the public how his government has twinned Camillo and Saboto since the 2015 election.
He said that since 2015, he has been involving both men in very important aspects of the overall management of the economy. He added: “You have to have the thinking in going forward, you have to have the particular trust in where you are shaping the enterprise. That is what I have done.”
Gonsalves said he knows that speculation would start regarding who he is tipping his hand towards to succeed him as prime minister. “Every single job that Camillo and Saboto have undertaken or I have asked each or both of them to undertake singly and together, … they have made a success of the assignments,” the prime minister said.
“In the case of Saboto, from the time in his late 20s that I asked him to be senator and then he was Parliamentary Secretary, then we made him minister of state then full minister. “He was grounded in Tourism, in Communication and Works, in Agriculture, in a number of areas other than Agriculture, including Industry, and now other things are being added on to him.”
“Camillo was Senior Crown Counsel and Ambassador to the UN and Foreign Minister and minister in his current capacity and you see both of them in Parliament, you see both of them politically.”
PM Gonsalves said that Saboto has been able to hold and consolidate South Central Windward, which he has been representing in Parliament since 2010. “His majority is not as large as Ralph’s majority nearby nor as Gustaus’ (Frederick Stephenson) own to the south, but his majority is like steel. It is being sustained and there are small accretions every time he goes to the polls.”
In the 2015 vote, Saboto bagged 2,476 votes against the NDP’s Addison “Bash” Thomas, who got 1,888; Gonsalves got 3,015 votes against the NDP’s Ken Johnson, and Camillo garnered 3,135 votes against the NDP’s Linton Lewis.
The prime minister also responded to the accusation that he is building a dynasty. “The point about it is this: What must I do? Must I say that a young man who has ability, intellectual, administrative leadership ability, in the case of Camillo, simply because he is my blood son that he must go to the back of the queue and that his ability must be hidden under a bushel?”
“Must I say that because Saboto and I have been close way, way, way back—I remember once when I said that Saboto is my son in whom I am well pleased, they said that I am talking about the matter in religious terms, and it’s blasphemy?”
“… The point is this: must I, because I feel that Saboto is an individual with immense ability, I must hide Saboto, too? I’m not hiding anybody.”
“I believe that the vast majority of people in the country today celebrating as to how Ralph is proceeding in making the initial moves in a transitional process”.
The PM took the opportunity then to repeat that he would not lead the ULP into the next election, although he would offer himself as its candidate for North Central Windward, which he has been representing for 23 years.
Then in early 2018, the notorious Yuggie Farrell scandal rocked the Caribbean and beyond casting a lingering dark cloud around Camillo’s star, the succession tract came to an abrupt end, at any rate for the time being. The “ancient warrior”, whose appearance and utterances expose the wear and tear of his years of combative politics, changed his course and remained harnessed in his gladiatorial trappings, desperately toiling to bring home one more win at the polls, however that can be accomplished, in the hope that his favourite son, his blood son, will have a more conducive political eco-space, within which to clinch the succession.
And what about that other son, the political son in whom the PM was once so well pleased about his “immense ability”, whose reputation has remained unsullied by scandal and who was harnessed with the blood son in preparation to succeed? Well Saboto’s rejection as worthy of being his successor is unmistakable and clear for all to see.
The PM is not renowned for his forgiving spirit. But in the face of this dynamic, Gonsalves’ political son was resolute when he “innocently” pronounced with much gusto that “Ralph Gonsalves does not have the moral nor legal authority to speak on behalf of Saboto Caesar at any place at any time in St. Vincent and the Grenadines…” On the other hand the blood son Camillo was ever so willing to lap up his father’s advice to maintain “a dignified silence” during the loathsome Yuggie affair. That deafening silence remains.
Many in the South Central Windward constituency think this scorning is unfair and spiteful. They are convinced that Saboto’s political father has gifted him an electoral virus whose terminal effects will take its toll on him at the upcoming polls.
Watch this space!!!!
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