Prior to the 2015 general elections in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), one of the issues discussed quietly and at times heatedly among members and supporters of the ruling Unity Labour Party, was who would succeed Dr Ralph Gonsalves as party leader and Prime Minister.
Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves, and Saboto Caesar the island’s Minister of Agriculture, were, and still appear to be the leading likely contenders.
The succession issue was raised on Monday November 15, during the BOOM 106.9 FM morning programme when Gonsalves was responding to a question on succession posed by the programme’s host Dwight ‘Bing’ Joseph.
The ULP leader and Prime Minister told listeners that at the political and at the governmental level, “there are some people who think that this is a bird which flies with one wing which is called a government. But government involves two things…it involves governance and it involves politics, and in this case, the politics involved is internal-party.”
The ULP did not hold its Annual Convention of Delegates in 2020 and 2021, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However the party is expected to “hold a National Council meeting which is 15 delegates per constituency rather than the 20, and we are going to talk about many things, including this issue. We put it off because of the Chief Medical Officer advice.”
Gonsalves who was sworn in as Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines in March 2001, and on five other occasions since said on the programme: “I have had a very long run as leader and as Prime Minister, and part of my duty is to have a proper succession plan in place for both the party and the government. And this is a matter I have discussed with my colleagues in the party, and you will know…when the time is right.”
Host ‘Bing’ then asked Prime Minister Gonsalves: “On the question of succession Prime Minister, will you be comfortable with a leader being someone who is not your son Camillo Gonsalves?”
In response Gonsalves stated: “I have a democratic party, we have a democratic party. Camillo is a person of real quality and has demonstrated in every task that we have ever given to him, whether it is Senior Crown Counsel, Ambassador, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Finance; he has done well politically, and he is a person of tremendous ability, so obviously persons will be looking to him as a possible candidate.”
Gonsalves went on to state that “There are others too, people have spoken about including Saboto [Caesar] who is again an individual with real quality. There are other persons in the party but these are the two persons people speak of within the party and outside the party.”
No date has been given for the party’s next National Council meeting but once the decision on a successor is made it will be subsequently ratified at a National Convention of Delegates, because as the party’s leader said: “the party will make the choice”.