Over the last couple months, a lot has been said about SVG’s relationship with Taiwan, and when that relationship was established and who established it, and so on. You were told that the Labour Party (SVLP) — headed by Milton Cato — established relationship with Taiwan in August of 1981. What I was hoping you would be told at that time is that diplomatic relationship with North Korea was also established in that same year — 1981. In fact, SVG’s current Foreign Affairs Ministry lists the initiation date of that relationship as April 3, 1981. It also provides a current address for the North Korean embassy in Cuba. None of this is to suggest that anything is wrong with having diplomatic relationship with North Korea. We were just hoping that in the interest of disclosure and informing the public, that all of this would have also been stated, since it happened in the same year.
The history of these events, as recorded by local media, stated that Cabinet met on Aug. 14and agreed that non-resident ambassadorial level relations would be established with Taiwan and SVG is expected to receive technical assistance in agriculture, fisheries, and light industries. PM Cato had reportedly travelled to Taiwan and South Korea, at the invitation of the respective governments. He had first travelled to London to attend the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana at the end of July. From there, he reportedly headed to Taiwan and South Korea. Bilateral agreements were apparently signed then. Not to be confused, relations with South Korea is recorded to have been established on Oct. 28, 1979. North Korea, again, was April 3, 1981.
1981 appeared to have been a difficult year, politically, for the Labour Party. In June of that same year, Randolph Russell, then minister of health, reportedly had addressed a public rally in the market square, explaining why he had resigned the month prior. Local media at the time reported him to be saying that ministers in the government were treated like little boys, and that the country should be concerned about dictatorship. He was also quoted as saying that he had suggested to PM Cato that public servants should be given a 30% pay raise since they were underpaid. Sounds familiar?
While Cato was away, acting Prime Minister Hudson Tannis, seems to have been left to hold things together. There were reported threats of industrial action by some government employees who sought what he called unreasonable wage demands. What’s worse, there was an allegation of a threat of a coup against the government, as agitation and discomfort grew among the people due to what the media at the time called unpopular bills (Essential Services Amendment bill; Public Order and Public Safety bill) that came before the Parliament as well as issue surrounding working conditions, and union recognition. Tannis had threatened to deal harshly with any threat, stating that government would only be removed by free and fair elections.
Meanwhile, CANA News on Aug. 10, 1981, reported that the UPM (United People’s Movement), headed by Ralph Gonsalves, was alleging that a group of Labour Party supporters were planning to form a “people’s militia” to keep the government in power, at all cost, including violence. This was announced at a press conference held by the UPM. Details were given on the makeup of this group, including an indication of its core members, who allegedly were from the Villa-Indian Bay area. Also, at its first congress, the UPM’s delegates were reportedly told that the Labour administration was incapable of further democratic rule and was resorting to dictatorial measures. Interestingly, speaking of UPM and relations with North Korea, CANA on Nov. 6, 1981, reported that the general secretary of the UPM’s youth arm had returned from North Korea where he attended the “seventh congress of the North Korean league of Social Working Youth”.
All in all, 1981 appeared to have been a very interesting year, politically, for SVG. This was a mere two years after the Labour Party had won the 1979 elections. Further, regarding the relations with North Korea, some leaders in the region met with members of the U.S congress after the Grenada invasion, The New York Times reported in 1983. Those leaders included Compton of St. Lucia; Eugenia Charles of Dominica; and Cato of SVG; as well as Adams of Barbados. The times mostly quoted Charles, citing concerns over the subversive influence of Cuba, North Korea, and Libya in the Caribbean region. She accused Libya of offering scholarships to Caribbean youths, with the intention of training them in terrorism, before they returned silent about what had happened.
To summarise, none of this is to suggest that anything is wrong with having diplomatic relations with North Korea. It’s just that we expected to have seen it stated when details were given about the relationship between SVG and Taiwan. Relations with both countries were established in the same year, 1981.
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