KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has accused the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) of joining with foreigners to undermine economic development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Gonsalves made the claims in a radio programme on Sunday after he told listeners of an encounter he had with two journalists from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) while aboard an aircraft in Barbados.
Gonsalves said the journalists told him they have three witnesses who would testify that resort developer Dave Ames came into his office “with a briefcase of money and then left without it”.
Gonsalves denied having received money from Ames, whose company, Harlequin, is the subject of an investigation by the BBC programme, “Panorama”.
Paul Kenyon, one of the journalists, told CMC on Sunday that they had failed to secure an interview with Gonsalves during their four-day visit to St. Vincent last week.
But Gonsalves said he only knew late on Friday that the journalists wanted to interview him and could not accommodate them due to prior engagements.
Gonsalves left here on Sunday to attend the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) intersessional summit that begins on Monday in Haiti.
TRYING TO AVOID
He said even while he had informed the journalists that he would not be available until next Friday they were of the view he was trying to avoid them.
“I wasn’t avoiding them. But if you are coming to St. Vincent, you want to interview me, write me, call. There is Hans King, the press secretary, there is Elson Crick, the communications director,” he said.
“And when I found it obviously strange that they had come to do a hatchet job, was when a journalist called me, a female journalist, and said that (Opposition Senator) Vynnette Frederick had been calling around to find out if they can get me to talk to these people,” the Prime Minister said.
“Now, if Mr. Ames has any problems with investors, they deal with that in the United Kingdom. Mr. Ames has received concession, as every investor; Mr. Ames has been given citizenship, as indeed other investors who have been around for five years or more and who have qualified,” said Gonsalves, who has ministerial responsibilities for citizenship matters.
The opposition has questioned how Ames became a citizen but Gonsalves has said that the process was in keeping with the law.
“I’m not going to discuss why a particular person has been granted citizenship as against somebody else. In other words, I am not individualizing this,” he said earlier this year and on Sunday said he has “not even taken or asked for a campaign contribution from them (Harlequin) for elections.
“Now, there are several instances, since Dave Ames has been there, when the state has had to take certain strong measures. I don't have to talk about what they were or what they had been -- in relation to that project.
“And, everything that has been done by this government in relation to that project has been done transparently and in accordance with law. So, this a dastardly accusation,” Gonsalves said, adding that it was the first time in more than 40 years in politics that somebody has made “such a dastardly accusation in relation to me.”
The accusation, he said, is “totally false”. “And this kind of this unseemly ambush, I want the people of this country to know how the opposition, in conjunction with people from overseas are seeking to undermine economic development in the country and at the same time, to see how they can bring disrepute to the office of the Prime Minister,” Gonsalves said.
It is terrible and the only way to fight these things is to come openly, Gonsalves said, adding that he is no less of a prime minister than Britain’s Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, or David Cameron.
“They think they can go on any plane and accost them, ambush them in that manner? This falsehood about they have witnesses -- they can have a thousand witnesses … because it is untrue; wholly untrue,” he further said of the accusation.
Gonsalves further said that a gentleman has said that the BBC journalist had shown to them a video in which Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace reportedly levelled an accusation against the Prime Minister.
“I hope that gentleman could be prepared to come forward and provide that evidence. In fact, he also told me -- the gentleman -- that Eustace was telling them the way he can help them to ambush me.
“… We have been having in recent times the opposition in the country behaving in a particular way. … If you can think of a doberman with denture, yapping, yapping so you see everything exposed and when they bite, they think they have something, they have absolutely no impact,” Gonsalves said.