January 4, 2011
Leacock: The class factor has been used against me

The subject of race and class, raised at the opening of the ninth Parliament of St.Vincent and the Grenadines, almost brought an early end to the sitting.{{more}}

Heated exchanges broke out in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, December 29, when St. Clair Leacock, the newly elected representative for Central Kingstown, charged that on both sides of Parliament, members are sometimes not sensitive to the extent of the class divisions that still reside in the society.

He contended that it hurts sometimes when in political campaigns, one has to listen to persons who should know better, making remarks that some individuals, such as him, do not deserve to represent anyone in the House, because of their social class.

On this note, he called on Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves to apologize for statements which he claimed, were in this regard.

Leacock’s call came following earlier remarks that he holds no rancour nor bitterness against Gonsalves, with respect to sentiments expressed against him in the past.

Leacock’s comments triggered hot arguments from the Government side of the House, which caused Speaker Hendrick Alexander to warn that if the arguments did not cease, he would bring the sitting to a close.

On Sunday, January 2, SEARCHLIGHT asked Leacock to articulate what he perceived to be the problem with race and class, a comment he had made on more than one occasion.

He framed his response from a historical standpoint, before addressing what he considered to be specifics.

Leacock said Ebenezer Joshua, a former political leader in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, had represented the working class or the masses. However, the advent of “Labour Politics” provided representation for the business, middle and professional classes of Vincentians.

“In a sense, that became the Vincentian dichotomy; Joshua being the working class, the down trodden class, led by the trade union movement, and the Labour Party, which had no labour union attached to it, mainly represented the middle class,” said Leacock.

Regarding specific cases, Leacock said that since the Unity Labour Party (ULP) took office, there has been a “heightened set of statements on race and politics in St.Vincent and the Grenadines.”

“The infamous statement by the Prime Minister, Bush would never see Arnhim Eustace in the night; Julian Francis’ statement to the Prime Minister ‘Leave it to me, I am a Portuguese.’

We’ve had the statements again, that unless people come from families that have social wealth, this means that if your families were not doctors, lawyers, professionals, top public servants, one is likely to steal and steal more, once one gets into politics,” said Leacock, noting that the latter was put on the agenda by the Prime Minister.

“In direct reference to my own self, he has privately said to me, I will never ascend to the leadership of the New Democratic Party and basically made the statements that (the) post is for people like the Sylvesters and Mitchell’s daughter. And those were (the) basis that I should leave the New Democratic Party and come to the ULP. He has said that to me,” said Leacock.

The new Parliamentary Representative for Central Kingstown also claimed that the Prime Minister has said that he has a ghetto mind and is not worthy to be a representative of the people.

Leacock said the matter has gone much further than political piccong and it’s a situation that should be rooted out of the body politic of St.Vincent and the Grenadines.

“I have been targeted by the Prime Minister because I come from a working class background….I would so much so emphasize the race factor, but the class factor had been used against me,” said Leacock.

Speaking of his accomplishments over the years, Leacock said he was awarded an MBE along with the Duke of Edinburgh Award for youth work in St.Vincent and the Grenadines. He said he has risen to the rank of Commander of the St.Vincent and the Grenadines Cadet Force and has an award from that organization named in his honour. He added that for eight years, he served as the President of the Employers’ Federation and had the opportunity to serve as vice president of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, as well as the head of the Football Federation on two occasions. Leacock continued that he taught at the St.Vincent Grammar School for 14 years and has lectured at the University of the West Indies.

“Those to me and those successes are evidence of a person whose leadership record and integrity has served them in good stead,” said Leacock.

“And therefore when you can join a mass political party like the New Democratic Party and ascend to the position of a vice president and to win a seat in the city, which is always prestigious in any society, there must be something about that person’s character, where all form of examination tells you his leadership, his performance and his integrity have been good enough to satisfy national institutions,” said Leacock, adding that all (persons) have their shortcomings and imperfections.