Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves threw down the proverbial gauntlet on Wednesday evening as he candidly declared, “Lorraine Friday has to pay” for potentially libelous statements that were allegedly made during a virtual media briefing hosted by the New Democratic Party last Saturday evening.
Dr. Gonsalves was speaking as a guest on VC3 Channel 114’s weekly installment of Round Table Talk. He updated hundreds of media audiences on the “blow that I got in my head,” the legal ramifications of blocking an elected member’s entrance to and egress from the local House of Assembly as well as why he was confidently laying the blame for his misfortune on August 5 squarely at the feet of the Opposition Leader.
In an earlier part of the interview the injured political leader said:
“I got the message from my security that both St. Clair Leacock and Lorraine Friday was trying to get in touch with me. I called St. Clair and I also told him, I said: ‘I’m calling you but I will not call Friday and if Friday calls me I will not take the call because I hold him responsible, personally responsible, for my injury over the blood spilling and concussion.”
The 5-term prime minister doubled down on his previously communicated decision not to have any further relations with Dr. Godwin Friday. “I don’t have to talk to him. If I have to do any consultation, what required by the Constitution, I write him! I don’t want to have anything at all to communicate with him about.
“I don’t want him to tell me morning and ah not telling him morning. Not only not talking to him, not answering the phone. I am telling you that is how I feel today on the eleventh of August – 6 days after this incident. And there’s more that I know that I wouldn’t talk.”
PM Gonsalves pointed to “three tests” which he claimed that Dr. Friday “as a leader in the circumstances should have taken and met” even as he discounted the presence of civil servants at the August 5 anti-Public Health Act amendment protests.
“The first one: as soon as he heard about this, he should go on the bull horn – on the public address system on which he was speaking intermittently the whole day. He should have said: ‘this protest now has to be discontinued. Something has happened, the Prime Minister has been injured – this has gone beyond any normal protest, I will have none of it, I will not encourage this’ and close it down.
“That’s the first thing – he did nothing of the sort. In fact, there were NDP people outside beating drums and singing and chanting – including persons who canvassed for them – saying: ‘the world boss get ah buss head; he shudda dead’…. They were doing that while he’s in Parliament saying my bloodshed is regrettable. So he want me talk to him?”
After that “first test outside to tell his people that they should go,” the prime minister opined that the Opposition Leader’s next scrutiny should have occurred in Parliament where he failed to “unequivocally condemn the violence…. It took him about 5 hours before he did that.”
According to Prime Minister Gonsalves, when Dr. Friday finally took a firm stance against the violence that cropped up in the now infamous protest actions, “he equalized my buss head – where I have a right to traverse as a Parliamentarian going to the Parliament – with some alleged incident between a policeman and somebody else.”
And the final assessment – “he shudda call Eloise (Dr. Gonsalves’ wife) and say: ‘I am so disgusted as to what has happened to Ralph please find out from him if he’d permit me to come and visit him at the hospital.”
Dr. Gonsalves further explained that former prime minister Sir James Mitchell video phoned in his “uncompromising” sentiments against the injurious outcome of the day’s agitation.
Add to these acclaimed injuries, PM Gonsalves continued, the allegedly libelous insult of being accused of misbehavior in public office.
“I’m going to refer this to the lawyer as soon as I get back to work to my lawyer,” the 70 plus years old politician prefaced.
“This is what he said about the searches which were done Saturday afternoon into Saturday evening” Gonsalves continued while explaining: “I am quoting Friday from the press conference because what I do – I don’t listen to them but I will have them taped and have it transcribed so I can read at my leisure.
“This is what he said: ‘it is quite clear that the intention has been signaled all the way from the top by Ralph Gonsalves and others, is that they are coming for the people – ’ notice the language – ‘they are coming for the people.’
I, Ralph, I’m ‘coming for the people who they perceive as being on the forefront of the demonstration that happened on Thursday this week. We can expect therefore that other persons would be on that long list of persons that they have targeted today.’
“Notice, I, I’m doing all of this you know. I’m coming for people. I’m targeting people. I’m the prime minister you know; all that is misbehavior in public office you know. If that is true, it happens to be false.
“Then he goes on: ‘this is clearly an attempt – ’ notice he using clear twice; clear – is a clear intention ah mine now ‘this is clearly an attempt to intimidate and to frighten protestors, to frighten Vincentian citizens, nationals, who have taken to the streets because they are in disagreement with the government particularly regarding the Bill that was passed in the House recently to amend the Public Health Act’.”
The prime minister further described the August 5 protest as being “illegal under the Act – under the Public Order Act, using public address system when they not supposed to do it.
“It’s illegal because they did not give notification, they didn’t have any permission to use amplified music. When the police told persons: ‘move, clear the way’ while I was there they didn’t clear it.’
“Now he is saying that I, I am the person who has made these search warrants go to all these people and its done to intimidate and frighten Vincentians who just have a disagreement with me.
“If that is true, I am guilty of misbehavior in public office which is a criminal offence at Common Law carrying 1 year imprisonment.
“I don’t, Theresa, direct police to search you. I don’t fill out no warrant, I don’t direct, I don’t – I’m not a justice of the peace or a magistrate to issue a warrant.
“Friday will have to pay for this! And I was giving him a break from what he had said earlier about a year or so ago that with the [indecipherable] that I was corrupt. I’m not giving any quarter to Lorraine Friday.
“When he – my blood is spilled and this is what he is saying about me? I’m a very reflective person you know and I’m good natured and I’m easy going and everybody knows that but now this is a bridge too far.”