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Matthews: My constituents are being harassed

Matthews:  My constituents are being harassed

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Newly elected New Democratic Party (NDP) Parliamentary representative for North Leeward, Roland ‘Patel’ Matthews, says that he believes that members of his constituency are being harassed.{{more}}

Matthews, speaking on the New Times radio program on Monday, January 10, said that he believes that Chateaubelair resident Arnim ‘Supa Dan’ Chance and others are being “harrassed” as a result of a promise he alleges Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves made during the run up to the December 13, 2010, general elections.

Matthews made the comment in reaction to the detention of Chance, by police, on Saturday, January 8.

That was the third occasion on which Chance had been detained in recent times.

“My concern is one of harassment, because up to this point, no charges have been laid,” Matthews contended, adding that he believes that the actions were politically motivated.

Matthews also said that he believes that the only reason why Chance and others were being targeted was because they were known supporters of him (Matthews) and the NDP.

Matthews disclosed that he is well acquainted with Chance and despite the negatives attributed to the man, he was in fact a “well respected businessman” and long time supporter of the NDP.

Chance’s name first came to national attention following an incident in the North Leeward town of Chateaubelair on November 21, 2010, when three female Unity Labour Party (ULP) supporters were allegedly assaulted by men said to be associated with Chance.

On November 22, Gonsalves visited the area, and according to witnesses, there was an exchange of words between the prime minister and Chance.

Chance told SEACHLIGHT that on that day, he was sitting under the garage of a building owned by Hymie and Minerva Williams when the prime minister’s entourage drove up.

He said the prime minister got out with three young women, and asked: “Who is Arnim Chance?”

Chance said that he said “Me! Me! Ask dem way happen”.

He said that the Prime Minister told him that he (Chance) is in trouble with him (Gonsalves).

Chance said that he went down on his knees and said: “If death ah me judgment, let it be. If aryo war kill me kill me. Me na fraid fo dead”.

After that, Chance said one of the prime minister’s security officers guided Gonsalves to his vehicle.

However, Gonsalves denies Chance’s allegations, describing them as “absolute rubbish”.

“What he is saying, I said, is now being conveniently uttered because the police are searching him. Never, never, ever was any such words spoken by me to them. Never. What the police are doing has nothing to do with any involvement with any altercation, with anything of the sort. So what they are talking about is plain rubbish,” Gonsalves stated.

Chance told SEARCHLIGHT that on December 28, he was again at the Williams property which is close to his place of business when he was approached by a police officer and told that the Commissioner of Police (COP) wanted to see him.

Chance said that he told the officer that he needed some time to bathe and change his clothing as he had been cleaning earlier in the morning. The officer obliged.

Chance said while he was at his home, a contingent of officers arrived and began to search his property and the lands surrounding.

Chance was then taken to Calliaqua police station, held overnight, then released.

On Wednesday, January 5, 2011, Chance was again taken into custody after his premises and those of about ten other individuals, all who are said to frequent the premises of Chance, were reportedly searched by members of the Rapid Response Unit. The warrants read stated that the officers were to search for drugs, guns and ammunition.

Chance said he was held in Kingstown overnight without being charged.

His home was again searched the next morning and his eldest son taken into custody.

In an early morning raid on Saturday, January 8, Chance’s residence was again searched.

“I know this is a political attack, but is ah love system we have in Chato. I bin buying books and pencils and sending people ah school for more than 20 years, so if dey support who I support, it come like ah thanks to me,” Chance said.

When asked whether he had given financial support to the North Leeward NDP campaign, Chance said, “Other than me truck an me set, me na do nutten else.”

“Wid dis election”, Chance stated, “it was better organization.”

“We set up we chart, and everybody know what they had to do, so by Saturday, we coulda start to relax, is wuk win dis seat,” Chance said.

Chance’s wife Almida claims that it is frustrating to be awakened so early in the morning, and that when the officers leave her home, it is in a mess.

“This is the worst nightmare, bright lights in sleeping children’s faces, so early in the morning”, the irate mother said.

Area representative Matthews, however, said that he knows that the prime minister and police are doing ther jobs, but his concern is harrassment.

“That is the impression the people of North Leeward are getting because they see no other reason,” Matthews explained.

He added that he spent a significant part of last Saturday in Chateaubelair trying to restore calm to his constituents.

“People are telling me that it is time for this to stop,” Matthews said, adding that he was advising his constituents to remain calm.

“I don’t want to get in a situation where people are hurt, and I am trying to avoid that.”

“I am appealing to the people of North Leeward to remain calm and restrain themselves,” Matthews said.

He, however, added that if people are pushed into a corner, anything could happen, adding that he had been getting numerous calls from irate constituents.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace commended Matthews for trying to keep calm in the area.

Eustace said that he received a call early Saturday morning from Matthews who had indicated to him that he (Matthews) was on his to Chateaubelair and had explained what had happened.

The Opposition Leader said that he, too, had received phone calls from who he referred to as concerned persons.

“Patel is playing the role that is ought to be done,” Eustace said.

“If the Police have evidence, then they should charge the person and take them to the court. You can’t be going and picking up people, because people will see it as harassment,” he continued.

“After two or three hours, I called Patel and he was still there trying to keep things cool, and you have to do that.”

“We don’t want anything to happen there. That is not going to help any of us,” Eustace contended, adding that the people of that constituency were “being pushed.”

“The Police need to bring a charge and bring the people before the courts of law. When you are acting in the way you are now, you are asking for trouble,” Eustace said.

The Opposition Leader subsequently reiterated a point he raised earlier that the NDP was going to do all in its power legally to shorten the life of the governing ULP.

“As much as the NDP didn’t win government, … the fact remains that we won seven out of the fifteen seats.”

“They are not going to last five years,” Eustace charged.

“We are going to bring maximum pressure legally on the government to shorten its life,” he said.

The Prime Minister has, however, issued some advice to Eustace and Matthews.

“The Leader of the Opposition would be well advised, he and Patel, to stay in their crease. They would be well advised to stay in their batting crease,” Gonsalves said.

“First of all, I didn’t tell him that. That is not what I said to him,” Gonsalves said.

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