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The PM’s Ethiopia visit


EDITOR: I write to correct a few inaccuracies in Dr. Adrian Fraser’s “Point of View” column in your newspaper of Friday, October 21, 2005, regarding the visit to Ethiopia by the Prime Minister.

First, the Prime Minister’s delegation, including himself consisted of nine persons, not fourteen as Dr. Fraser stated. The delegation was comprised of: the Prime Minister, his wife, Ambassador Ellsworth John, St. Clair Jimmy Prince of API, Camillo Gonsalves (a lawyer from the Attorney-General’s Chambers and who incidentally is the PM’s son), and four brothers from the Rastafarian Community (Messres. Ronald Hypolite, Philbert Bascombe, John St. Hillaire, and Cauldric Delpesche. {{more}}

Secondly, on the issue of cost, the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines did not pay the air fare and expenses of Camillo Gonsalves and Philbert Bascombe. Camillo’s air fare and expenses were paid for personally by the Prime Minister even though they ought properly to have been paid for by the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines given the splendid role played by Camillo Gonsalves, as a lawyer, in the final drafting of “the Visa Waiver Agreement” and “the Communique”, among other things. Philbert Bascombe bore all his own expenses. Indeed, the Prime Minister himself personally contributed, in part, to Mr. Bascombe’s air fare.

Thirdly, the Government of Ethiopia provided accommodation, board and local travel expenses free of cost to the PM’s delegation.

Surely, Dr. Fraser is in error when he complains about the size and composition of the delegation. Is he objecting to the presence of four Rastafarian brothers on the delegation, one of whom bore his own expenses? Did Dr. Fraser inquire of their role on the visit including the all-day visit to Shashamane? Does he know of the leadership roles of these brothers in the Rastafarian movement and civil society in St. Vincent and the Grenadines?

Dr. Fraser’s objection to Camillo’s presence on the delegation is mean-spirited and unbecoming of him. Would he have objected had the person taken from the AG’s Chambers been another good lawyer, for example, Ms. Danine Jones, the daughter of the former NDP representative, Louis Jones, whom the Prime Minister, as Minister of Legal Affairs, had entrusted, not-too-long-ago, with an important mission to Kenya?

And by the way, Dr. Fraser, the Prime Minister never took Camillo to Cuba on an official mission. He took him to Venezuela, a visit which also did not cost the State of St. Vincent and the Grenadines one cent for Camillo.

It is evident that Dr. Fraser has a deep-seated opposition to the PM’s visit to Ethiopia but rather than state his opposition upfront, he is skirting at the edges. It is partisan political opportunism.

Dr. Fraser complains about the breakneck speed of many initiatives by the Gonsalves administration. This has been the Prime Minister’s usual pace of work. Lazy, indecisive people cannot appreciate Dr. Gonsalves at work. I know that it is very difficult to keep up with him. Dr. Fraser is wrong, however, to suggest that the Ethiopia visit was timed for electoral effect. The fact is that diplomatic relations between St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Ethiopia were established in January 2004 and at that time the PM expressed an interest in visiting Ethiopia. Circumstances in Ethiopia did not permit an earlier visit. Should the Prime Minister close down the exercise of authority or the carrying out of public policy because of impending general elections?

It is interesting to note that Dr. Fraser did not express his approval of the Prime Minister’s initiative with Ethiopia. By any measure it is a most significant step, taken by the PM and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Clearly, Dr. Fraser’s vaunted “black nationalism” has gone quiescent. Maybe he dismisses it all now as he did Frantz Fanon’s anti-colonial writings as out-of-date.

Sincerely yours,

Glenn Jackson, Press Secretary

Prime Minister’s Office