I may as well from the onset lay before you my particular prejudice: I have never been a fan of the man. Not when he was a newspaper columnist weekly espousing Marxist theories on the one hand and on the other living high on the capitalist hog; not when he professed to be a loyal member of Julian Hunte’s deciduate Standing Committee of Opposition Parties in the Eastern Caribbean but could never be counted on when his vote was vital to SCOPE; not when during the 2001 election campaign he publicly declared Morella Joseph a carrier of AIDS, albeit “political AIDS”; and certainly not when, in Mindoo Phillip Park, he turned stomachs by using the corpse of George Odlum as a platform from which to heap praise on “the last of the Mohicans”—himself. (For details of the moribund Odlum’s final moments when, according to “the last of the traduced radicals,” George “recited by heart, without prompting, never stumbling” from Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats, see Were You There? from Lapses & Infelicities!)
As a prime minister he has never impressed me—an unsolicited declaration that I admit may be valueless, considering I am not a resident of St Vincent and the Grenadines. But then it would seem a large section of his countrymen think of him as I do. By which I mean to say his form and manner quite possibly bring to their collective mind what they bring to mine: a salivating komodo dragon on the scent of carrion. And lest I be conveniently accused of interference in the political business of a territory outside Saint Lucia, I should quickly remind would-be critics that the man to whom I refer loves to list himself among the lead endorsers of James Mitchell’s evidently now forgotten OECS Unity Initiative—or did when the idea was still en vogue. To seek to accuse me would be equal to the allegorical pot calling the kettle black. No Caribbean prime minister has ever been as much a meddler in the political affairs of sister islands as has Ralph Gonsalves, with sometimes serious consequences for the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
He last made headlines throughout the region in the immediate aftermath of Tomas, when his somewhat ironic plea for assistance from the then recently elected (and possibly still smarting) prime minister of Trinidad & Tobago—against whose election Gonsalves had campaigned assiduously—elicited an unfortunate response that echoed throughout and beyond the hardly united Caribbean.
Earlier, there had been persistent allegations of rape and consequent published reactions by feminist groups in St Vincent and elsewhere. Small wonder that his recent election victory took many by surprise, never mind that he had escaped defeat by the skin of his teeth with the slimmest of majorities. And now Ralph Gonsalves is again making regional waves with his January 20 House statement that “there is strong and ample evidence of real quality that two cocaine-trafficking and money-laundering operators decided in a coordinated way to continue their efforts to destabilize the country and seek to remove the ULP administration from office, including a conspiracy to kill the duly elected prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Ralph Gonsalves’ January 20th announcement was hardly his first about a conspiracy to remove him by murder. If the details of earlier plots were sketchy, not to say seemingly farfetched, this time around the prime minister was nothing short of forthcoming. The latest plan to kill him by drug dealers who had funded his opposition’s campaigns “was hatched by two cocaine-trafficking and money-laundering entities” within one week of the last general elections in St Vincent and the Grenadines. According to the prime minister “the security authorities obtained very reliable information about the person who was recruited to carry out the deed.” An immediate manhunt resulted in the apprehension of “the contract killer who had hitherto been charged for the offence of murder but was acquitted.”
When he learned the police were on his trail again, this time for his part in an alleged plot to murder the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, he “made arrangements to flee to a neighboring Caribbean island by speedboat” but was arrested as he awaited the boat’s arrival in a bay.
Said Gonsalves in his House statement, the man was “charged for serious
offences not relating to the conspiracy of [sic] murder . . . because the security authorities are keen on protecting the most valuable intelligence sources.” Presumably, Gonsalves is saying that by not charging the arrested contracted killer with conspiracy to murder (it turns out the “serious offences” are burglary and receiving stolen property!) his co-conspirators will be unaware the police are on to them. Good. Then why did Gonsalves, a lawyer once regionally renowned for his defense of accused criminals, blow the whistle on January 20? Are the authorities no longer interested in protecting “the most valuable intelligence sources?”
To further quote Gonsalves: The operation has yielded, among other things, one high-powered assault weapon. Moreover: “The authorities know of the existence of another which had been in the contract-killer’s possession but is yet to be found.”
He was in police custody but 36 hours, said the prime minister, when the contract-killer obtained a cell-phone via which he “stayed in contact with those who had hired him. As a consequence the police carried out a raid at the prisons and found eight cell-phones.” Alas, none which could be linked to anyone on the premises.
The tale becomes more bizarre: barely twenty-four hours after the PM’s unidentified would-be killer was arrested in an undisclosed bay, one of his contractors sought the services of another killer-for-hire who showed interest but “declined when he learned his target was the prime minister,” at which point a Trinidadian was recruited. Too bad that “despite diligent and extensive searches the police are yet to apprehend this Trinidadian.” But the search continues. In the meantime it has come to light that the man now in custody “secured another cell-phone and was in touch briefly with certain persons outside the prisons.” The security officers have not been able to find this phone and the would-be assassin “is now in restrictive custody at the prison.”
At the risk of appearing to trivialize the reported murder threat, I must again underscore the evident stupidity—if not recklessness—inherent in the shocking revelations by the alleged target himself. As far as I can tell, there has been no collaborative follow-up report by the St Vincent and the Grenadines police, at any rate none that has reached these shores—in total contrast to a somewhat similar episode here, described by the acting police commissioner Vernon Francois as akin to “a bomb scare . . . we have nothing to go on but we can’t afford not to take it seriously anyway.”
Checks with reporters in St Vincent confirm the “strange police silence.” Indeed, there has been no official word on the prime minister’s House statement, not even from the Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace. (I am informed that the prime minister’s revelations in parliament took the form of “a ministerial statement,” consequently Mr Eustace was officially denied comment. He alone knows why he remains silent outside the House, despite the allegation that his party’s campaign was at least part funded by drug dealers who want the Vincentian prime minister dead).
Even more puzzling is the fact that no one has been charged with conspiracy to murder the prime minister. Are the authorities still protecting their all-important “intelligence sources” with their deafening silence? Are the drug barons who hired a killer to murder Ralph Gonsalves still unaware that their plans have been uncovered? If like so many of us they never listen to what passes these days for parliamentary debates,
then what about those phone calls from their man now behind bars? Is he keeping them in the dark as to his plight?
I smell something rotten in the local environment that leads me to suspect the earlier mentioned pre-Christmas episode might have had its roots in St Vincent and the Grenadines, roots earlier unsuspected. Paw prints earlier blurred are starting to take on a familiar appearance. Even as I write, there are whispers growing increasingly loud about
a hit involving one Saint Lucian parliamentarian (and I refer not to a hit carnival tune) that obviously the police cannot ignore, whether or not it fits into the bomb-scare category.
Meanwhile I hear something ticking . . . tick-tick-tick-tick . . .