“When people lie you have to held them accountable [sic] because if they continue their lying ways and you don’t correct them people might believe it’s true.”
So said North Leeward Member of Parliament Roland “Patel” Matthews, at the time speaking to his constituents at the second meeting in a series of political crusades held on Monday nights across the constituency.
He proceeded to debunk claims Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves made at his party’s constituency conference also hosted in North Leeward that previous Sunday evening. First amongst the claims on Matthews’ hit list was the Prime Minister’s much mentioned reference to being able to get from the U.K. to Rose Bank at the time of the devastating impact from the 2013 floods before any New Democratic Party delegation could arrive on the scene.
“… Minutes after the incident happened in Rose Bank I was present in Rose Bank. As a matter of fact because the cell phone service was down line calls could not be made and the police at the Chateaubelair Police Station had to use my phone to call the Coast Guard and to keep in contact with their headquarters to know what is happening in Rose Bank. So when I heard Ralph lying to his teeth [sic] last night ah say ‘Oh God, poor fella. Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Matthews said.
Next on his list was the Unity Labour Party’s stance on cannabis. The Gonsalves led administration is currently awaiting the completion of unspecified administrative procedures, before recently passed amendments to the current laws that govern the legality of cannabis related issues here, can come into effect. Changes were made to the local laws to allow for the framework to establish what has since been called the Medicinal Cannabis Industry. There has been some confusion surrounding the issue as at least one cannabis crop was, on Tuesday 14th January, eradicated by “unauthorized” police officers even as its owner is awaiting official designations as a licensed ‘medicinal’ cannabis farmer.
On Sunday night Dr. Gonsalves again reiterated his government’s longtime policy of general tolerance towards ganja farmers – who contribute significantly to that constituency’s economy, it has been said. Gonsalves reminded Vincentians that his government opted to wait until ganja farmers had harvested their crops before advancing with plans to have Operation Vincy Pac executed here in May 2009. He further explained that it was the presence of foreign elements who attracted the attention of the armed forces.
“When we did the eradication, well it wasn’t really eradication. When we did Vincy Pac, we didn’t, we wait until everybody did done reap! And when the foreigners them come back, claiming land up there and want to use Vincentians to plant, I moved against them.
To make sure that the St. Lucian’s and the Bajans and the Grenadians and even some Jamaicans don’t come and go in the hills and say they controlling land belonging to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,” Dr Gonsalves told his party’s North Leeward constituency conference.
Matthews, at his Monday night rally, cited an online copy of a news article which he said details the result of the Vincy Pac operations. “…In that article it stated that when they went up into the hills they cut down 8.5 million ganja trees, now that is foreigners? Apart from that they got rid of 7.3 million marijuana seedlings, they lock up thirty people, they kill two people, three sorry and two of them were Vincentians.
Vincy Pac went and look for foreigners according to the Prime Minister,” Matthews said.
Dr. Gonsalves has since admitted that his government has increased both fines and custodial sentences for drug related convictions over time. He was at the time responding to an ANN posed question at his most recent media briefing.
Dr. Gonsalves said “that is also true, there are several things which are true in what you said and several things which are left out… what happened is this in relation to a set of offences which are concerned with trafficking and it is tied up in the general move in the entire world and particularly in our hemisphere on issues touching and concerning money laundering.
So some issues relating to for instance possession with intent to supply a drug is a drug trafficking offence and the maximum penalties were increased in line with penalties which are, which the proceeds of crime act with money laundering.”
He further noted “but you may have the maximum but basically you have sentencing guidelines put out by the Chief Justice after discussion with all the other judges where you’re not going to get maximum unless in the rarest of cases.”
It has been said that custodial sentences were more than doubled from a three to seven years maximum while maximum imposable fines have increased to one half of a million dollars (XCD500 000.00) up from XCD100 000.00 during the Unity Labor Party’s tenure as Government.
The North Leeward MP also tackled, amongst the list of supposed lies he detected, the stated reasons for government’s delay in dealing with necessary repairs of capital infrastructure projects like the Chateaubelair wharf which was damaged since 2013 and the bridge at Sharpes. As for the list of over 30 million dollars worth of project financing which ULP constituency caretaker Carlos James has said is invested in the constituency, Matthews said “… all the projects you hear Carlos talking about none of them is in the budget. None of them is in the budget!”
Matthews saved some ammunition for Colin John, current Commissioner of Police. He accused the top cop of lying with regards to the reason he, John, gave to explain police presence in the area where the ”unauthorized” ganja farm raid was conducted.
“When you coming down that road, you cannot see what is being planted. It is above the road and plus, it is barricaded with galvanise sheeting… Colin John was lying and saying the police were driving around and they saw the cultivation,” one online publication also attributed to Matthews at his Sharpes based political meeting, last Monday night.