January 14, 2014
How did I get involved? – Toronto businessman

The businessman on the receiving end of threats of boycott against his company is wondering how he got entangled in what he calls a political fiasco.{{more}}

“How the hell did I get myself caught up in this political arena… I am not comfortable with this, “ Ken Chitole, CEO of the Canada based KLC Shipping, told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday by phone.

The St Lucian born entrepreneur said that he has been accused of refusing to accept supplies destined for the New Democratic Party (NDP), to be distributed in St Vincent, as part of relief efforts following last year’s Christmas disaster.

Giving his side of the story, Chitole said that when the heavy rains and flooding caused unprecedented damage here on Christmas Eve into Christmas Day, he received a call from Consul General of St Vincent and the Grenadines to Toronto Fitz Huggins, who was in St Vincent at the time.

He said that Huggins informed him that the consulate would be mobilizing relief efforts from the Canadian diaspora, and would require assistance in shipping things to St Vincent.

“I said to him that I am on board 100 per cent. On top of that, I had my agent in St Vincent give him a cheque of $5,000 to start this thing off,” the businessman explained.

“Now we have already have one 40 foot container of supplies heading down, and we are working on another 40 footer here, and each container costs us over $5,000. We’re doing it for free, this is our contribution, because the community up here has been very supportive of our service and I am a St Lucian and I’m doing this both for St Lucia and St Vincent.”

Chitole said that some time last week, he received a call from an individual who asked him if he (Chitole) could ship supplies to St Vincent going to the NDP.

“Up until that point, I didn’t even know who the hell the NDP was. I didn’t even know there was a political party in St Vincent called the NDP.

“So, I said ‘listen, the information that I have from the consulate up here is that all the relief is being coordinated by NEMO, and they are being assisted by the Red Cross,’ so anyone calling and want to make a contribution, we would say get the cargo down to the warehouse, and just mark NEMO or Red Cross….

“I want to make this so clear. At no point that I ever said to this gentleman that we are not accepting cargo for the NDP, and that the consulate instructed us not to accept any cargo from the NDP, “ a frustrated sounding Chitole said.

“But we are being accused that we are not accepting any cargo for the NDP that is so false and this is what is pi_ _ing me off today, it’s really pi_ _ing me off.

“And today, to put us on Facebook, damaging the credibility of this company is really, really upsetting… saying boycott the services of KLC, because we are supporting one side; that is unfair.

“For 30 years I have been in this business. Every time the consulate needs our help, we have given our help, whether it is a disaster or not, to the schools, to the hospital; we have been doing it for free, not a penny.”

The Toronto based businessman said that despite being initially turned off when he heard the remarks, he will continue to lend his support to the relief effort in any way that he can.

He said that he had instructed the Montreal branch of the business to ship items for the relief effort for free as well.

He also said that he is willing to make arrangements with the New Democratic Party to have items shipped to them for the relief efforts.

“I am here to assist everybody.

“I have no issues with that; if these people come forward and let us know what it is that they have and we are willing to work with them.

“I spoke to Mr Eustace this morning and I said I just want to make it clear that the consulate in no way, shape or form, has said not to accept anything from the NDP; Mr Huggins did not tell me that… and he (Eustace) said he was going to go on the air and get my statement out. I was told that he did go on the radio and he did convey this message.”

Chitole stressed that the shipping company belongs to him and he could not be told by anyone who to, or not to ship to.

“Today I said to Mr Huggins: ‘I wish I never got myself into that and that you guys would pay for your shipment, and then everybody would know that they had to pay for it, but I cannot do that.

“The Vincentian community has been very supportive of our service, and we will continue to do what we have always done in the past.

“This will not in any way deter us from doing what is good.

“I am not taking any sides in this political arena; this is not us,” Chitole said.(JJ)