Opposition politician St. Clair Leacock is questioning why Attorney General Grenville Williams represented Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves at last Sunday’s Remembrance Day Parade, even as Deputy Prime Minister Montgomery Daniel was present.
Leacock said the situation resulted in a breach of protocol at the military parade, which saw the attorney general ranked higher than the deputy prime minister at an event from which the prime minister was absent.
Speaking on radio this week, Leacock said he wanted the Vincentian electorate to consider whether the situation “stands up to protocol muster”.
Leacock, who holds the rank of major from the SVG Cadet Force, said he is intimately familiar with the parade, having missed it only a few times over the last 60 years.
He said that he deputised for Opposition Leader Godwin Friday at Sunday’s parade because Friday had to attend a funeral in Bequia.
Leacock said that Governor General Dame Susan Dougan attended and headed the line-up of dignitaries at the parade.
Next in line was Williams, who took up the post of attorney general on Nov. 1.
The third person was High Court judge Justice Brian Cottle, representing the judiciary, followed by Speaker of the House of Assembly, Rochelle Forde, followed by Leacock, representing the leader of the opposition.
“After me came Honourable Montgomery Daniel, the deputy prime minister of St. Vincent Grenadines, but also the Minister of Transport and Works,” Leacock said.
“Clearly, from the list that I’ve called, absent was the Prime Minister of St. Vincent Grenadines,” Leacock said, adding that he did not know why Gonsalves was absent.
“What I do know is, it is the practice that if the prime minister is not available for duties and the deputy prime minister is available, he will fill in for the prime minister.”
Leacock said he found it “a serious breach of protocol and disrespect” for Daniel, the deputy prime minister, to be sixth in line.
“I’m speaking, without authority, for him. But I am also raising it not in a mischievous, nor a provocative way,” Leacock said.
“I’m saying that I have great difficulty to understand why if the prime minister is absent, that he’s not represented by a minister of government, but more so the deputy prime minister.
“The fact of the matter is that even though the respected Attorney General … was recently sworn in, he hasn’t even had the privilege yet of making a parliamentary appearance in the House of Assembly,” Leacock said, adding that he was speaking genuinely and regarded the attorney general as a competent professional.
“And one of the first public duties you can see for the attorney general is to represent the prime minister at a most important, again, engagement, the Remembrance Day Parade/Poppy Day Parade.”
Leacock noted that the prime minister has repeatedly stated that his government has a policy of having a public service rather than a political attorney general.
“He has been emphatic about the advantage of having a public servant Attorney General carrying out those responsibilities,” Leacock said.
“So, I’m raising the interrogation, the question, what is the justification for the departure by having the attorney general, who by admission is a public servant, deputising for the prime minister at a parade at which the Deputy Prime Minister is also present, thereby appearing on that day, on that occasion, and that distinct time to be the senior government official, on duty,” Leacock said.
“I find it also extraordinary that the attorney general did not only present or lay a wreath on behalf of the Prime Minister but also laid a wreath in his own capacity as attorney general,” he said, adding that the attorney general was the only person to lay two wreaths at the Cenotaph.
However, on Thursday, the prime minister told iWitness News that Williams represented him at the parade because he did not know that the deputy prime minister was going to attend.
“The AG is a very important individual and the deputy prime minister is all the way up in [North Windward]. I didn’t know at the time that the deputy prime minister was going to be there,” Gonsalves told iWitness News.
So that was — actually, I couldn’t make it. I always go but there was something why I couldn’t make it. That is a straw man thing,” he further said, referring to Leacock’s comments.