Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday says he is willing to take part in a bipartisan approach to tackling crime in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but has noted that the prime minister has not spoken to him since August 2021.
“That’s what we’ve called for in our statement. That is what we have said, over the course of time,” Friday said on Boom FM on Tuesday, when asked if he would take part in a bipartisan approach to addressing the situation.
In August 2021, Gonsalves said he blamed Friday for an injury he sustained to his head as he walked through protesters in Kingstown who were demonstrating against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate that the Gonsalves government was about to pass into law.
The opposition leader has rejected personal responsibility for the prime minister’s injury.
Friday said that while he has made the call in a public address, he has not written to the prime minister on the matter.
“… does it matter that it has to be an embossed letter or we make an appeal, we call for an appeal to the prime minister or to the government or to the police, to civil society organisations for us to come together?” Friday said.
He said he does not make his statements publicly “just for show or for joke.
“You know me. I’m different,” Friday said. “What I would like to see happen is for the authorities to say, ‘OK, let’s have a broad base committee or a body that essentially tackles a problem’,” Friday said, adding that his New Democratic Party made a similar call during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“And then it was dismissed during that time as well, because the government doesn’t seem to think that the opposition has any constructive role to play in the governance of this country.
“And that is unfortunate, because in government, that is the approach I will adopt, because what you want to do is to bring 110,000 people,” Friday said, referring to the country’s population.
He noted that more people voted for him and his NDP than for Gonsalves and his Unity Labour Party in the 2020 general elections.
“How can you simply disregard the role of the opposition in the governance of the country and say that you’ve been transparent and open, and you’re governing for the whole country?” Friday said.
“So when I make these appeals, I am serious, I am continuing — we’re consistent in it because [former Opposition Leader], Mr. [Arnhim] Eustace had done it in the past,” Friday said.
The opposition leader said the opposition has continued in the same vein “not because I’m simply following what he had done.
“We did it because we believe that it is a constructive role for us to play. And we will continue to do that. And when we have to act, on our own to do it, to bring the people together, as it seems we have to do now, then we will make that happen. And that will take place over the course of time.”
Friday said he has not had a call from Gonsalves or a conversation with him, even amidst the crime crisis.
He said that before the 2021 incident he had received “many calls” from the prime minister.
“It is so ridiculous. I mean, how could you have a situation where the Prime Minister does not speak to the Leader of the Opposition? But that is his choice,” Friday said.
“The country deserves better than that. When I’m prime minister, I will speak to the leader of the opposition. And I will call the leader of the opposition regularly. And I will have the leader of the opposition play his constitutional role, for consultation for the various things that require consultation under the Constitution, that those things will be done.”
Friday said it is always a good thing for the arms of government “to work together, to communicate together.
“And it would enhance the functioning of our government if that were the case today, as it did previously. That’s all I would say on that matter.”
The opposition leader said he has said it in different ways that one has to remember that who is in government now “will be in opposition sometime and hopefully soon.
“So, I have said that that is not a course that I would adopt, because I don’t think I’m there to serve myself and my personal ego. This is a matter for the country and I have to deal with the matters of the country in the most constructive way possible,” Friday said.