‘To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history.’ Marcus Tullius Ceciro
When PM Gonsalves wrote to Kenton Chance lamenting the ‘quality to journalism’ here, I took a long pause since my Plain Talk was said to emanate from ‘wholly inaccurate and false reportage.’ Plain Talk did not paraphrase Gonsalves. Quotes came directly from a recording.
Gonsalves is a wily political fox. But in the Ashelle Morgan saga, he yet again proves himself is too clever by half.
In vain, he claims as his defence that he was saying what the NDP would have said if the shoe was on the other foot, but after repeatedly listening to his words, his defence makes no sense. He told citizens to shut up. He beseeched them ‘not to believe all of the outlandish things they have heard about Senator Morgan.’ Gonsalves offered that the case was about two women and that there is lots of violence against women in this country and that we should be proud that somebody is standing up for women.
Those words cannot properly be taken as something the opposition would say. Eager to comment, Gonsalves’ word about the opposition is political cover. His comment and the subsequent letter took me back decades to a speech in the 1970s. He railed against the Labour party administration of Milton Cato, and in closing out his speech, he said something like this:
‘Comrades, listen to me and listen to me carefully. Let no one say that Ralph Gonsalves said that Milton Cato and his political gang is the worst government since Adult Suffrage and is responsible for raping the treasury of our country, because I did not say that. Did you hear what I said?’
He planted a seed then, and he wanted to plant a seed in his comments on Senator Morgan. The entire media establishment, including government-friendly outlets such as Ernesto Cooke’s News 784 and the Searchlight, carried the story just as Plain Talk and others; proof that Gonsalves attempt at guile completely backfired and caused a tsunami of disapproval from the majority of Vincentians, including influential supporters of his government. They all found his statements offensive to democratic best practices.
But this is not new for Gonsalves. He has established himself as a web of contradictions. He holds up one standard for others and a completely different yardstick for him and his cronies.
Speaking on a vote of a no-confidence motion, on August 15, 1995, that targetted Parnel Campbell for alleged dealings with an offshore bank, Gonsalves excoriated Campbell for engaging in what he described as legalism.
He mocked Campbell for saying, ‘I have done nothing illegal, therefore if I have done nothing illegal, I have not done anything wrong against the public wheel.’ And then he slams the door shut: ‘And we all know that there are many things, which are legal but are wrong in your sight in this House and in the sight of the people.
Anytime a man reaches the end of the intellectual and moral tether to find refuse only in legalism, it is time for him to go.’
Interestingly, when Campbell’s colleagues stood in defence of him, Gonsalves told the parliament, ‘I have difficulty referring to him still as Attorney General…This government has stood by Campbell, and old people tell me the upholder is worse than the thief. You know over there in your heart that what he did was wrong. But you are saying you don’t want him to go because the opposition leader brought a resolution to force him to go.
What sort of nonsense you are making of the public good. Foolishness! If he has done something wrong, he must be told by his friends that he did something wrong, unacceptable and that he should go.’ Campbell resigned as Attorney General.
A year later, August 13, 1996, Attorney General Carlyle Dougan came under the political microscope for facilitating a transaction that resulted in the theft of over $1 million from the National Commercial Bank, now BOSVG. As a result, he too was forced to resign.
Then Gonsalves said then, ‘Dougan’s conduct in this matter raised very important questions. The Unity Labour Party is demanding his resignation. And if he does not resign, I fully expect that Prime Minister Mitchell will push him in the same way Campbell was pushed.’
During the August 15, 1995 debate, Gonsalves moaned, ‘You have the majority here. You will defeat the motion…from the way you have been clapping and so on, but I will tell you this – the hottest part of hell is reserved for those who at the time of great moral crisis maintain a position of neutrality.’
These instances reflected principled positions that Gonsalves took. His fight for democracy helped him win the people’s confidence and a solid victory in 2001.
What a difference power makes! Compare and contrast Gonsalves’ statements with the way he has governed. When he was accused of rape, he wrapped himself in the cloak of legalism. When the morals and/or ethics of he, his ministers or party big wigs are challenged, he does not accede to calls for resignation or for the individual to step aside until an investigation is completed. Gonsalves’ selective mantra that one must be presumed innocent until proven guilty reflect that he, like Campbell, ‘had reached the end of his intellectual and moral tether.’
Gonsalves, who in 1995 was allowed to table and fully debate his resolution to oust Campbell, morphed into an undemocratic autocrat by 2018. When the opposition tabled its motion of no confidence, Gonsalves argued that the majority could legally vote whether to debate the motion. And when the Speaker overruled him, he improperly argued for an amendment to the motion. Unfortunately, the Speaker misinterpreted the constitution and allowed the amendment.
Gonsalves’ letter to Kenton Chance was grossly ill-conceived and did nothing but to offer him up to ridicule. Intended to have a chilling effect on the press and public debate, it created the opposite.
We adopt the identical A. E. Houseman’s words Gonsalves used to close his contribution on the Campbell debacle in 1995. ‘Be still, be still my soul it is, but for a season, let us endure an hour and see injustice done… Be still my soul, it is but for a season.’
The views expressed are not those of Asberth News Network, all opinion piece must be sent to [email protected]