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Anesia Richards-Baptiste: Government had hand in blocking US award

Anesia Richards-Baptiste: Government had hand in blocking US award

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Who pulled the plug on Anesia Richards-Baptiste?

Speculation was rife all week as to why Baptiste did not get an award she was expected to receive from the United States Embassy in Barbados on Tuesday, March 9, 2010.{{more}}

At the last minute, Embassy officials informed Baptiste that she would not be receiving the award after being nominated for the Secretary of State International Women of Courage Awards for 2010.

At a press conference on Wednesday held at Frenches Houses, the same venue where a reception was to be held in her honour, Baptiste blamed the government for having a hand in this.

While she remains adamant that the Government is responsible, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has dismissed the notion, making it clear “The US authorities pulled the plug, not us.”

The bone of contention is this: The government states that Baptiste is well known for her religious and political intolerance, as well as being anti-Semitic. Baptiste, on the other hand, states she is being wrongfully labeled. At the moment Baptiste is also under suspension from her job as the Communications Manager in the Ministry of Tourism for allegedly breaching the Public Service Code.

Prime Minister Gonsalves told SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday that even though the process of Baptiste’s nomination had several questions about, it the government only got involved when an invitation was sent to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

“The government said we can’t attend the ceremony. We said look, this is the situation why we can’t attend. We said look at the evidence – when they saw it they pulled the plug,” said Gonsalves.

He noted that the relevant officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were then instructed to give the US Government the reasons for not attending.

“The reasons had to do with Ms. Baptiste’s religious and political intolerance and her anti-Semitism. Her rant and tirade against Jews. We did nothing other than take her written and spoken word to support why we will not attend a recognition ceremony,” Gonsalves explained.

“We didn’t say to the Americans to withdraw their recognition. We didn’t say that at all,” he emphasized.

Gonsalves said about a week prior to the date set for Baptiste’s award the government received the invitation and it was only at that point that it got involved.

“How can we get involved with someone who is a religious bigot and anti-Semitic?” the Prime Minister questioned.

At Wednesday’s press conference held by the Thusian Institute for Religious Liberty (TURL), Baptiste made it clear her nomination was mainly on the grounds of her role in the 2009 Referendum and her role as a courageous woman fighting for rights and freedom despite not having much support.

Seated at the head table with her colleagues Janelle James and Anne Marie John, Baptiste addressed the cancellation of the TURL’s radio programme on STAR FM and the International Women of Courage Award, as well as recent public statements they claimed that were made by Senator Julian Francis, General Secretary of the Unity Labour Party (ULP), and Hans King, Press Secretary to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. She also gave a detailed account of the cancellation of the US Embassy’s award.

“The Thusian Institute for Religious Liberty has no hatred for any particular race. We are not anti any race. We are anti anti-rights behaviour. We are against anti-rights and anti-freedoms behaviour of anybody whether you are a Bajan, a Vincentian… ,” said Baptiste.

“The charges of anti-Semitism should not be leveled against us because we site documented information that speaks about the responsibility of certain people in the world where the economic crisis is concerned,” she noted.

Regarding the award Baptiste disclosed that she was informed of her nomination on November 18, 2009, through an e-mail from an officer of the US Embassy.

The activist refuted claims that she was nominated by the local Human Rights branch or some other organization in St.Vincent and the Grenadines.

At press time Wednesday, SEARCHLIGHT contacted Senator Julian Francis for a reaction to statements Baptiste and her colleagues made earlier that day.

Francis gave the reasons for puling the programme from STAR FM. He said it “stank of racism”.

“My position stands the same as it was in March of last year,” said Francis.

He said when the issue surfaced last year he refused to get involved in a letter writing war with Baptiste. Rather, he sent her two e-mails explaining the position of STAR.

“It has resurfaced now. I refused at that time to get into anything because I thought that Anesia, because of youthful exuberance, was overstating her case,” said Francis.

“Now that she has declared herself a politician you deal with Anesia in a different manner. That’s my reaction to her right now. She is obviously embarking on a political career so therefore I will now classify her as a politician and my response to her will be in that manner,” said Francis.

Francis added: “The Thusian Institute is basically a secondary church… Anesia is looking for a platform to launch both her Thusian Institute, whatever her church is called – I don’t even know the name of the church and her political career.

“If she chooses an old experienced political act like me on which to launch her political career, naturally I will respond as a politician.”