Clarke clueless about statements in leaked cable
September 9, 2011
Clarke clueless about statements in leaked cable

Editor of The News Newspaper Shelley Clarke says he is clueless as to the statements attributed to him in a recently released Wikileaks cable.{{more}}

Clarke, speaking to SEARCHLIGHT via telephone on the evening of Wednesday, September 7, denied having discussed with any American diplomat, among other topics, suggestions that the United States Government fund the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), or that the US should become involved in the internal affairs of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The editor said that he had spoken about what he perceived as threats to democracy and to himself and his newspaper, but he has no knowledge of the other statements.

“I talked about that a couple years ago, but I don’t know where them other things come from. So I am at a loss for some of those things.”

In a cable entitled ‘A Democracy Under Stress’, created at the US Embassy on May 5, 2006, and released on August 30 this year, the writer indicated that Clarke argued that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has adopted methods used in Cuba to guarantee support for the country’s communist regime.

The cable said that Clarke and others believed that the Youth Empowerment Service (YES) program, initiated by the Gonsalves led government, ‘is used to indoctrinate the nation’s youth into the dogma of the ruling Unity Labor Party (ULP) and what some fear is a growing Gonsalves cult of personality.’

‘As proof of the personality cult, Poloff (the Political Officer of the Embassy) was directed to observe the new ULP headquarters building that is topped with large photos of Gonsalves and the words ‘Long Term Papa’.

The cable also went on to say that Clarke, who is described as a once enthusiastic supporter of the Prime Minister when he first came to office in 2001, then disappointed when Dr. Gonsalves failed to fulfill campaign promises, ‘believes the USG (United States Government) should secretly be involved in the nation’s internal affairs.’

‘The editor, who used to speak regularly with the PM, shared the substance of his last phone conversation with Gonsalves, describing the PM’s attempt to convince Clarke that his newspaper should endorse the ruling party in the 2005 election. When the editor declined to do so, Gonsalves made what Clarke took to be a threat before hanging up the phone.’ the cable went on.

Clarke, in refuting the contents of the document, said that he had spoken publicly about the Prime Minister’s threat against him and the dictatorial style of the Prime Minister, but said other statements are ‘not even close’ to the truth.

“They would have asked me how I felt about the threat to democracy and the threat I spoke about…. that’s no secret; I spoke about that publicly…but I can’t figure out where they get anything like that from.”

“You take this thing about picture on ULP building; I don’t understand where that come from…. I don’t know where they get YES Program from…. I wouldn’t tell anybody such nonsense.”

“I don’t even call anybody ‘papa’. If I want to say something about Ralph, I will say Ralph, I won’t say papa.”

Clarke is of the opinion that the writers of the cables may have gone overboard with their exaggerations in their reports to their superiors.

“All I could say is that people probably have a conversation with you, they must find some way of making it sound more important than it is.”

“If somebody talk to you about something and they go back, they probably are totally confused and have to figure out how to please somebody else.”

The veteran journalist, who said he had not heard of the document until the very day he was contacted by SEARCHLIGHT, said that he has long since refused to speak to American diplomats when they make requests to see him.

He said the current Wikileaks debacle is having a negative personal effect and continues to cause problems on the local and international stage.

“I think it’s damaging people’s names. Some people will try to slander your name worse.”

“Somebody even said I went to the Embassy in Barbados and do this and that.”

“I don’t know how to figure some of these things.”

Former reporter for the Vincentian Newspaper, Caribbean Media Corporation, and Searchlight Newspaper Kenton Chance was briefly mentioned in the document, stating that he at the time was in the process of forming a media workers association, ‘in order to protect freedom of the press in St. Vincent.’

The document said that Chance described himself as having been a supporter of the Prime Minister until the 2005 election.

SEARCHLIGHT also contacted Chance, who is presently pursuing his Master’s degree in Taiwan.

He said: “I recall having lunch sometime in 2006 in Kingstown with an official from the U.S. Embassy in Barbados, during which he sought my views on current affairs in SVG. He took no notes, neither did I. That was five years ago, and, truth be told, I cannot recall the contents of the conversation. However, I imagine that I was fair and honest in my comments.

“As for the specific issues mentioned in the cable, I was among several media workers, who, at the time, were trying to revive the media workers association in SVG. Our efforts were to advance our profession and had absolutely nothing to do with politics.

“As per who I support or supported politically: So what if I was, am, or will be a supporter of Gonsalves, Eustace, the ULP, NDP, or any other political entity? That is my constitutional right as a Vincentian. As a journalist I endeavour to separate my politics from my profession. No further explanation is necessary.”