December 17, 2004

Dr. Gonsalves: My position was on principle

He is not one given to modesty; in fact he has been accused of being arrogant, a claim he dismisses attributing it to being sure and confident. But Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves last Sunday boasted of his foresight in visiting Libya in August 2001. {{more}}

Dr. Gonsalves recalled the scepticism proffered by some regional leaders including Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace on his Libyan trip.

The Prime Minister tied in his Libyan connection with his overall foreign policy as he pointed to his stance on not signing the waiver demanded by the USA giving their soldiers immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

Dr. Gonsalves reiterated that his position was one of principle, and stated that he had been “spoken to on many occasions”, and had recently received a communication from US Secretary of State Colin Powell on the issue.

But, Dr. Gonsalves stressed, St. Vincent and the Grenadines would not be signing the waiver unless Trinidad and Tobago signs.

He told his party convention: “I cannot do something which I think is wrong.” He therefore reminded his audience that Americans are “our great friends”, and that the relationship between both countries was “ extraordinarily strong”.

The Prime Minister stated that the British “underwrite our final security”, but emphazised that “we must defend our territorial space manfully”.

He referred to the government and people’s reputation on account of those stances, and added: “That prestige adds dignity to us as a people.”

But he stressed, you get more respect taking firm principled positions “than if you were a cringing slave”.

Dr. Gonsalves indicated: “We cannot say yes to Chatoyer and trade that independence lightly. This is a matter that goes beyond the simple issue of international relations.”

Knowing he was on home ground with the St. Joseph’s Convent Marriaqua convention hall packed with “Unity Labour Party warriors”, a fired up Dr. Gonsalves noted that sanctions against Libya had since been lifted and that British Prime Minister Tony Blair had gone to Libya after him. He therefore boasted: “Ralph was ahead.”

For Dr. Gonsalves, SVG has a broad foreign policy that was “flexible” and had no permanent friends, only “permanent interests”.