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Leacock blasts Connell, Joachim on IK TV

Leacock blasts Connell, Joachim on IK TV

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St Claire Leacock, a vice-president of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), has said a criticism of the party’s leadership by journalist Chester Connell and accountant Stephen Joachim “has a touch of class position inside of it”.{{more}}

Leacock, however, said on IK TV’s “Unrendered” that he did not think the men were racists.

“I don’t think they are racists, because I don’t want to accuse people of racism. … but they must be more sensitive to it,” he said in response to host Toney Regisford’s question.

Connell and Joachim, in an episode of the programme broadcast on September 23, said Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace should quit as head of the NDP.

Connell said Eustace has no sense of connecting with people and is always “angry-looking”.

Joachim said Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, whose Unity Labour Party (ULP) has won three general elections against the Eustace-led NDP, is a “superior politician”.

Leacock said in an episode of “Unrendered”, broadcast on Sunday, that “much political weight has been assigned to the statement …

“I am offended by it for more ways than one,” he said, adding that Connell’s was “the second assault on the leadership of the New Democratic Party”

Leacock said Connell, in a previous interview with Regisford, “said that essentially Mr Eustace had failed and Leacock would represent the same old khaki pants”.

Leacock further added that while he has a “good relationship” with Connell that he believes is “healthy” enough to survive the verbal exchange, “… I could not understand his assault on my person and on my leadership, because it does not bear out the facts with respect to my contribution at a national level on leadership matters.”

Leacock said he takes leadership seriously and was studying for his doctorate before entering electoral politics.

“And people speak to it in very, very loose ways,” he said, adding that he has had “a very outstanding record in St Vincent and the Grenadines, I believe, in terms of national service”.

He mentioned his roles in the Cadet Force, the Auxiliary Police Force, the Chamber of Commerce, the Employers Federation, VINLEC, and his 33-year-old business.

“So, I do not consider myself as having failed this country in the way of leadership and I can put down my signpost to measure what I have performed, in the same way that Mr Eustace, as a very young permanent secretary, a minister of finance, an advisor to several regional governments, reaching virtual to the top of the Caribbean Development Bank, the Development Bank here in St Vincent, … has a success record as well.”

He further noted that only Eustace retained his seat on mainland St Vincent when the ULP whitewashed the NDP, 12 seats to three, in the 2001 general elections.

He said there were “close” losses in 2005, when voters returned the same ratio, and in 2010, when they handed the NDP four additional seats but gave the ULP a one-seat majority and a third straight term.

“In addition, I sit in the seat in which I have a much different picture of Mr Eustace,” Leacock said, but added that the NDP leaders “have shortcomings”.

“And certainly, there are a number of things I would like to see Mr Eustace do differently: there are times I would like to see him a bit more aggressive on certain matters; other times maybe a little bit more patient on matters. But each of us has a right to how we handle different circumstances,” he said.

“Let me speak to Chester’s situation and what pains me in it. And this is my beef: Chester Connell comes from a privileged class in this society. He admitted it on a radio programme. They grew up on a plantation, [where] they rode on horseback. When they did it, many of us were walking to school, others … pulling a sardine tin, a pan around they feet,” said Leacock, who Central Kingstown constituents elected to Parliament in 2010, after his failed bid in 2005.

He further said Joachim is a “bright, intelligent, professional” whom he respects greatly.

“He went to a boarding school. He doesn’t know what it is like to rub shoulders like the average Vincentian here,” Leacock, however, said of Joachim.

“They assume that they could make a statement on Mr Eustace’s leadership and the rest of the New Democratic Party and it would be politically neutral. That is naivety. It goes a long way [because] of their own track record, their own social paths, the power of this media itself, the “Unrendered” programme.

“And one gets a sense that the dismissive nature of the comments has a touch of class position inside of it. And I have that feeling.”

He said that with the tenure of NDP founder and prime minister from 1984 to 2001, Sir James Mitchell and Gonsalves (who has been in office since 2001), both of whom are of European descent, “the notion of a prime minister is a person of a different pigmentation.

“And I have too often come up to situations where people figure that if you are black you can’t be in charge of this country,” Leacock said.

“I don’t hear those disparagements made of [Northern Grenadines representative] Dr [Godwin] Friday, for example, in the New Democratic Party.

“… But it is reserved for [West Kingstown representative] Daniel Cummings, Leacock, [Senator] Linton [Lewis] and company.

“I am saying there is a colour element to it as well. I am making that accusation on television and they must stop it,” Leacock said.

Asked if there was an inference to racism in his comments, Leacock said: “I am saying it is something we should take note of.”

Leacock said while Connell and Joachim, notwithstanding their racial make-up, can comment about the NDP leadership, their views must be “supported by factual matrix” and added that leadership is wider than charisma. (kentonchance@searchlight.vc)

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