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“It’s unfair and a verbal ambush on the people of this country.”

That was how Prime Minister Dr.Ralph Gonsalves

characterized statements made by Barbados’ Prime Minister Owen Arthur in Parliament recently.{{more}}

In a major speech in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, Arthur had said the flow of illegal drugs from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to Barbados, and the criminal networks it was spawning, threatened the country’s national security. Noting that 80 per cent of all marijuana entering the country came from St Vincent, he called on Dr. Gonsalves to do more to cut production.

Speaking exclusively to SEARCHLIGHT Wednesday, June 15, from Dominica, where he was attending a summit of leaders of the Organization of East Caribbean States (OECS), Dr. Gonsalves was adamant that his government had been co-operating fully with Barbadian authorities on drug interdiction.

He noted that all pilots of the C26 aircraft used in surveillance, as well as the head of the Regional Security System (RSS) were Barbadian “and can attest to our cooperation.”

Responding to the fact, as mentioned by his counterpart, that there were 49 Vincentians in Barbadian prisons, he said he could not say why every Vincentian national had been imprisoned in Barbados.

However, Dr. Gonsalves was more concerned about demonstrating this government’s seriousness about combating the drug trade. He noted that Commander David Robin of the Coast Guard was presently in the United States with a team, where they were seeking to source a particular high quality vessel for use by the Coast Guard.

“This is going to cost us over $3 million,” the Prime Minister said.

He also noted that the local British Representative had commended law enforcement in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for their “good work” in drug interdiction.

What is Arthur talking about?

“I don’t know what Arthur is talking about!” Dr. Gonsalves said. “Barbados does have to deal with the demand problem.”

The Vincentian Prime Minister made a point of the fact that cocaine also comes into St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados from South America.

He pointed to a story in the Wednesday, June 15 edition of the Barbados Nation newspaper, which mentioned that Coast Guard and Customs in Barbados had discovered near $1 million worth of marijuana bolted to the hull of a container ship the MV CFS Pamplona in Bridgetown.

We are still involved in the eradication of marijuana, he noted, pointing to frequent arrests made here.

“Co-operation is very good between St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbadian authorities” Dr. Gonsalves insists.

He said that he had agreed on the appointment of Grantley Watson, a former commissioner of police in Barbados to head the RSS.

But back to the issue of drugs, Dr. Gonsalves said: “Clearly there is a cartel in Barbados dealing with the importation of marijuana. Cocaine comes to St. Vincent from Barbados although it is not produced there”.

It’s a verbal ambush

The Prime Minister made the point that marijuana and cocaine find their way to our shores from South America and emphasized the need for both countries to continue to work together on interdiction.

“It’s unfair and a verbal ambush of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines” Dr. Gonsalves said for the Barbadian Prime Minister to speak in the terms he had.

He said it was a lie that St. Vincent and the Grenadines had given recognition to the Marijuana Growers’ Association. He said that grouping was formed during the New Democratic Party (NDP) administration and his Unity Labour Party (ULP) had opposed its formation. He further made the point that that grouping does not function today.

Dr. Gonsalves charged that it was not the first time that Prime Minister Owen Arthur had tried to belittle the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “It’s unfair and demeaning to the people of SVG,” he said.

Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves was also eager to clarify another burning accusation thrown at him by his Barbadian counterpart, that he had asked Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide to resign in Monterrey Mexico.

As Dr. Gonsalves explained it, at the Summit of the Americas in 2004, he had spoken to Aristide and noted that in his current situation back then there were no politicians left between him and the thugs. He said he told Aristide that neither the Americans nor the French were going to help him.

Just state facts

Against that backdrop Dr. Gonsalves explained, his advice to Aristide was that he cut his term by one year and go to elections. He said that he expected that in any event someone from Lavalas, Aristide’s movement would win the elections.

Dr. Gonsalves said he was going to write to Prime Minister Arthur even before he left Dominica since he does not believe in a war of words.

Noting that St. Vincent and the Grenadines cooperates with his neighbours he said: “I follow the tradition of Errol Barrow and Milton Cato where we do not engage in a war of words with neighbours.”

“We just state facts,” he said.