‘We do not wish, now or ever, to engage in any political campaign’
August 13, 2010
‘We do not wish, now or ever, to engage in any political campaign’

If the Chamber of Industry and Commerce wants a fight with the government over the non-renewal of the car parks lease, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is saying bring it on.{{more}}

But any battle that Gonsalves and his government might have to face would be a legal one, according to Shafia London, Executive Director of the Chamber.

Gonsalves said on Tuesday that the Camber’s full-page newspaper advertisements last weekend were done “obviously with a political campaign in mind”.

The Chamber published the advertisements soliciting support for “the justice of our cause”.

After two five-year terms, the government has decided not to renew the Chamber’s lease of the 164-spot and 64-spot car parks in Kingstown and Arnos Vale, respectively.

The Chamber said it would like at least one more term.

The car parks will go to the National Labour Congress (NLC) and the Windward Islands Farmers’ Association (WINFA).

Gonsalves on Tuesday restated the government’s position that not renewing the lease was “fair”.

“If a decision is taken on the ground of fairness, the only way you want me to change it is that you want me to be unfair,” he said.

“I love political campaigns against me. I love them. They bring out the best in me,” Gonsalves said.

“So, if the president and the executive director and board and whoever want a fight with the government … it’s a simple thing: The lease has come to an end,” Gonsalves added.

The Chamber said that it has invested $500,000 in developing the lands in Kingstown into a car park and suggested that the government should refund that investment.

London told SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday that the Chamber’s lawyers were still considering its legal options, even as she said the organisation is “apolitical”.

“We do not wish, now or ever, to engage in any political campaign of any kind,” she said.

“We are a business organisation, interested in business development and we are interested in national development.”

London said the Chamber would have “approached the issue at hand in a similar manner” regardless of which government was in office.

She further told SEARCHLIGHT the advertisements were taken to sensitize the business community about the development and to solicit their support in urging the government to reconsider its decision.

Gonsalves described as “facetiousness” London’s suggestion to SEARCHLIGHT last week that WINFA runs Food City, the state-owned supermarket.

London, however, told SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday that her comments were “just a mere suggestion”, adding that there are “many other options to be explored”.

“Our main question is that helping WINFA or any other organisation should not be at the detriment of the Chamber, or … undermining the Chamber,” she said.

She further said that while the Chamber was “strategizing” and “exploring other options”, it had not given up.

“It is not a matter in which we are saying that without the car park the chamber is totally dead,” London said.

“We are still discussing with our legal advisor, who would have already made contact with the government. But that is for various other reasons other than giving the Chamber the car park,” she said. (KXC)