September 6, 2011
WikiLeaks: Last minute cash injection won ULP 3 seats in 2005

A leaked confidential United States Embassy cable is claiming that political scientist Peter Wickham told a US Ambassador that a last minute injection of cash allowed the Unity Labour Party {{more}} (ULP) administration of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves to sway voters in three marginal constituencies in the December 2005 general elections.

The cable, published on the WikiLeaks website on August 30, 2011, said that Wickham, who is believed to have conducted public opinion polls for the ULP in the 2001, 2005 and 2010 general elections, expressed this opinion during a meeting with US Ambassador Mary Kramer, who was assigned to the OECS from 2004 to 2006.

The cable said Wickham did not believe that voting irregularities allowed the ruling ULP to win three closely contested parliamentary seats in the December 2005 election, as was claimed by the opposition New Democratic Party, but he is of the opinion that “a sudden injection of US$350,000 in the last two weeks of St. Vincent’s December 2005 election campaign allowed the ruling Unity Labour Party to sway voters in a handful of hard-fought parliamentary races, by helping people pay overdue bills, fix leaking roofs, and buy groceries.”

The cable also states that Wickham believes that the ULP flew about 400 people to St. Vincent from the United States for the 2005 elections.

The cable, one of thousands released over the last two weeks, discusses campaign financing in the OECS in general, and quotes Wickham as saying that Caribbean political campaigns are awash with money from a variety of sources, particularly wealthy expatriates seeking to influence governments.

“The availability of money favors ruling parties and has dramatically changed the way campaigns are run, giving inordinate influence to outside consultants, as well as non-nationals and members of the diaspora from whom much of the money is raised. In the extreme, this has allowed an American billionaire to virtually purchase the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. It has also led to special consideration and sweetheart deals for certain regional businesses; in some instances campaign contributors have been rewarded with diplomatic passports,” the cable said.

The cable said PM Gonsalves personally reviewed each opinion poll and discussed the results with his advisors. It says Wickham was impressed with Gonsalves’s intelligence and attention to detail, although he can get “too involved in minutia and is often openly critical of those around him.

“When you have been cussed out by Ralph you have really been cussed at,” the cable quotes Wickham as saying.

The cable also claims Wickham said marijuana growers have considerable influence in St. Vincent, where they are not necessarily considered undesirables, but can be quite prominent people.

“He thinks there is some truth to the rumors that that certain individuals tied to the drug trade provided funding to Gonsalves’s ULP, at least during the 2001 election that brought it to power. In Wickham’s assessment, Gonsalves has to appear to be doing just enough to tackle marijuana production to satisfy the USG and CARICOM member states,” the cable said.

“Vincentian ganja is a big thing” in the Caribbean, the cable quotes Wickham as saying, adding that he believes it is difficult for the Government of St. Vincent to crack down on one of the country’s few lucrative industries.

However, Wickham, who is the Director of Caribbean Development Research Services, Inc. (CADRES), a Barbados-based consulting firm specializing in public opinion polling, in a statement issued on Sunday morning, denies ever discussing the intimate details of any specific campaign or concerns about any leader with Ambassador Kramer.

Wickham said he considers the publication of the cable is “a most disturbing turn of events” which presents him, along with two present and one former prime minister “in a negative light and appears to be based largely on information that I have no knowledge of and never conveyed to the Ambassador Kramer.”

Wickham, who has among his clients a variety of corporations, international organizations and media outlets, said he sought legal advice on his options regarding the allegations and he has also contacted a representative of the US Embassy, and discussed his concerns extensively. He said the official advised that they cannot discuss the contents of these documents since there is no certainty that the documents are authentic.