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ULP in no hurry to replace PM – Camillo Gonsalves

ULP in no hurry to replace PM – Camillo Gonsalves

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Recently appointed Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves says there is no anxiety by anybody in the Unity Labour Party (ULP) to remove, usurp or replace his father, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves as leader.

“Everybody in the ULP is thrilled with the leadership of Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves; the people of SVG have repeatedly demonstrated that they are thrilled with the leadership of Ralph Gonsalves and there is no jostling…,” the younger Gonsalves stated during a press briefing at Cabinet Room this week.

He was responding to a question about rumours that his recent appointment as Finance Minister points to him taking over from his father and pushing Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar into second place.

Gonsalves, in his response, said the ULP has a leader.

“The leader is Ralph Gonsalves, and we are not a party that jostles for leadership and we have learnt our lesson historically about jostling for leadership,” noted Gonsalves, who added that the time for a leadership change will be determined by the party in serious consultation with the Prime Minister. “It won’t be determined by rumours, it will be determined by the membership of the party, governed by the constitution and all the processes in there. So, I don’t pay attention to rumours. I have heard so many rumours about myself over the years and about other people, so I don’t pay attention to rumours, except to say that, we have a leader.”

Gonsalves said that, unlike the New Democratic Party (NDP), where there is always a question about who is leading and who is in charge, the ULP does not have those issues.

“There is no anxiety about succeeding the PM. I hope he goes for as long as he sees fit and I know that my opinion is not a minority opinion,” stressed Gonsalves.

He said that his father has been prime minister for over 16 years, an extraordinary feat, as when you look around the Caribbean over the same 16-year period, every other country has changed government.

“Most of them changed government right around the economic crisis that we experienced from 2008 and continuing,” said Gonsalves, who added that SVG is one of the few countries that during that crisis did not have to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to stay afloat.

“We are one of the few Caribbean countries that didn’t have problems during that time of people who can’t get their salary on time; we know what was happening in other countries because of the incredible constraints that the financial crisis imposed on them.

“We are the only country in the OECS that hasn’t had to resort to selling citizenship to stay afloat and that is testimony to his excellence not only as a finance minister but to his leadership,” said the junior Gonsalves of his father.

He said Dr Gonsalves was able to lead this country through a “very very” difficult economic time and that is a fact, once you forget the back and forth of politics.

Gonsalves said that the financial crisis spurred changes in government in Jamaica, Bahamas, Antigua, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica, but the ULP remained in power.

“How did Ralph Gonsalves stay in government and keep his party in government through this very difficult time?  It is one of two things: either he is a brilliant leader, or the Opposition is incompetent, or some combination of the two.

“We have settled on the view that he is an excellent once-in-a-lifetime leader and nobody is anxious to see him go and I think that the rumours you are talking about is more idle speculation by Opposition people who have been in opposition so long that they are worried about how much longer they will be in Opposition,” commented Gonsalves.

He said he does not want to comment on ongoing litigation in relation to the election petitions currently before the High Court, but he has yet to see a viable explanation of how the seats could have been stolen.

“The first election that he won was managed by the NDP, unless they cheated on themselves; he won that fair and square; the second one he won 12-3, so unless it was a mass act of fraud that nobody complained about, he won that one. He won the next one by a reduced majority, but it was certified as free and fair by all the independent observers and the promised litigation from that election never came to past and then this most recent election indicated an increase in votes in every one of the eight seats that he won and in the seats that we lost and up to now, I have not received a viable explanation, mathematically, of how the seats could have been stolen,” said Gonsalves.

He opined that the Prime Minister has led the party with distinction and the current accusation is the manifestation of “sore loser-ish-ness” that we have heard after each election.

“After each loss, they have said the election was stolen, but I am confident that when the court has the opportunity to look at the legality of it, then they will conclude as we all know, that the elections were freely and fairly conducted and the time then to reproach the Opposition for calling our system into disrepute will be, once that decision has been made by the courts,” noted Gonsalves.

He also stated that in his opinion, one of the reasons the Prime Minister was able to lead the country through the financial crisis was not just about accounting and balance sheet gymnastics, but through relationships with countries like Venezuela with ALBA and Petro Caribe and the co-operation that the elder Gonsalves was able to get from other friendly governments.

“One of the reasons we were able to build the AIA was we had friendships and co-operation and collaboration with other countries,” stressed Gonsalves.