Heavy rollers clash in House of Assembly
April 28, 2006
Heavy rollers clash in House of Assembly

There is never a dull moment in Vincentian politics. And although the atmosphere in the House of Assembly last Tuesday April 25 was relatively cordial, there were moments when sparks flew between the two sides.

The friction manifested itself during question time when Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves was responding to a question posed by Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace.{{more}}

Eustace asked: “In a recent statement, the Security Adviser to the Prime Minister indicated that telephones in St. Vincent and the Grenadines were being tapped but not by the government. Could the Minister confirm whether phones are being tapped, and by whom and who gave the authority for such tapping?”

The Security Adviser is former National Security Minister Sir Vincent Beache. The Prime Minister responded: “It is my understanding from what Sir Vincent said there had been wire tapping in the past.

“This government had no knowledge of what went on then, and we are not involved in any wire tapping now,” Dr. Gonsalves declared.

The Prime Minister admitted that he did not have a transcript of Sir Vincent’s speech, but he pointed out “the clear position is that there was suspicion that in the past, wire tapping took place.”

He mentioned that he had to write to Cable and Wireless’ manager on two occasions to find out if his phone was tapped.

The Prime Minister was also of the view that the telephone lines he is presently using are questionable.

“Sometimes when I hear certain things go on my phone at the office of the Prime Minister, and sometimes at my home, certain kinds of clicks, I wonder if some people ain’t tapping my phone.”

He suggested that because of new technology, certain type of devices could be purchased to effect such operations.

“This government, this Prime Minister, has not been, will not be involved in any wiretapping, simply because it is illegal, given the state of current law,” Dr. Gonsalves declared.

The Vincentian Prime Minister chided the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) and alluded to a NDP talk show host who was convicted for causing alarm.

But that comment was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Opposition Senator St. Clair Leacock rose in defense of the talk show host. That forced Speaker Hendrick Alexander to use his office to quell an outburst between Dr. Gonsalves and Senator Leacock.

Senator Leacock referred to “members over there who have relations,” who may have had criminal records.

In clarifying his statement, Senator Leacock accused the Prime Minister of using the House “to name and shame the public.”

The Prime Minister called on the Senator to apologise for suggesting that there were members on the government side with convictions.

“I am not going to apologise. If you want to throw me out, throw me out,” Leacock stated.

After the intervention of Speaker Hendrick Alexander, Dr. Gonsalves proceeded with his response:

“Whether any telephone is being tapped, I have no way of confirming. What I can tell you is that the government has not been involved in that.

The Prime Minister added that certain countries were moving in the direction of passing laws to make wire-tapping legal. But the Vincentian Prime Minister wants to make the issue a non-political one.

“I will bring legislation if the Leader of the Opposition concurs in that particular legislation. I don’t want this matter to be one which is subject to partisan division,” Dr. Gonsalves said.

Opposition leader Arnhim Eustace entered the fray on the conclusion of Dr. Gonsalves answer. He said he felt constrained to respond to Dr. Gonsalves’ “degrading comments” about the NDP and its talk show host.

Eustace was of the view that the talk show host had had enough time to rehabilitate. But the Prime Minister outlined that on the most recent matter for which the talk show host was convicted, “enough time has not passed for him to be rehabilitated.”