KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent and the Grenadines April 15, 2020 (CMC) – Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Golnsalves, says his Grenadian counterpart, Dr. Keith Mitchell, was “wrongly advised or badly misinformed’, when, last week, he described, as irresponsible, an invitation from Kingstown, for people from the Grenadine islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, to go shopping for food and gas, on Union island, which is governed by St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
In a lengthy letter to Dr. Mitchell, yesterday, Prime Minister Gonsalves said that the statements, by the Grenadian leader, “contained several inaccuracies”, but would only mention the “two, which are the most egregious”.
In a statement, last Saturday, Mitchell, who also serves as Minister for National Security, told the residents of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, that many countries, as part of the strategy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, have instituted stringent measures, while others have opted for a more relaxed approach, which, in some cases, have resulted in dire consequences.
“In the fluidity of the pandemic, it may be hard to say, which is the right or wrong approach, but countries retain a sovereign right to determine what works best, and when decisions are made, citizens must abide by the laws of their respective countries. Even in the midst of a pandemic, the law must prevail,” he stated.
But in his letter, Gonsalves said, from the very beginning, his administration placed certain explicit restrictions on entry to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, of persons, who originated from other countries substantially-afflicted by COVID-19.
“These restrictions were tightened, extended, or ramped up, on an ongoing basis, as the circumstances merited. Indeed, from 10 days ago — before your statements — anyone originating from a CARICOM member-state was required, among other things, as a condition of entry, to be quarantined for 14 days, whether or not, he or she had symptoms of COVID-19.
“Further, in none of the Grenadines’ Islands has there been a port of entry for yachts or pleasure boats, for over two weeks now; and there was in place, before your statements, a controlled regime for a trade in goods. Please note, too, that the last international flight to St. Vincent and the Grenadines was on March 28, 2020 — long before your statements,” Gonsalves expounded.
Gonsalves pointed out that it was also a falsehood, that he had “encouraged or invited residents of Carriacou and Petit Martinique to enter St. Vincent and the Grenadines in defiance of your country’s closure of ports, curfew, and lock down”.
“The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines specifically stated, that given the history and culture of “free movement of persons” between the islands of the Southern Grenadines (respectively parts of Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines), the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines offered to assist, if assistance were required, with food, medicine, and cooking gas, “but in a structured and organised manner”.
“This genuine and helpful offer was, in response to the residents of Carriacou and Petit Martinique arriving in Union Island — despite your government’s curfew and lock-down — to purchase, or to arrange in the purchase of, the said commodities, in more than modest quantities.
“After all, Grenadians are our dear brothers and sisters, divided only by miniscule degrees of latitude and longitude. I, thus, find it quite amusing and ironical that some, who are egging you on in your blast against me, are agitating to raise aloft, swiftly, the fig-leaf of sovereignty against a friendly neighbour. Yet, the same persons, oft-times, and easily, surrender it, in substance, to imperialism. I am sure that the distinguished Prime Minister of Grenada is not in that sort of ignoble company,” Gonsalves wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
He said, underlying Mitchell’s comments, he sensed “an unstated assumption, or implication, that St. Vincent and the Grenadines has opted for a less-focused approach than that of some neighbouring countries in the fight against COVID-19.
“That imputation, too, is false! To be sure, the authorities of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have not adopted draconian, or near-draconian, measures, but we have followed the science and the generally-accepted, sensible protocols on COVID-19; and we have applied them, efficaciously, to our circumstances in their fluidity and evolution.
“Our approach, and its relevant details, were elaborated in my address to the nation on March 25, 2020. A copy of this address is enclosed. I do not, in any way, suggest that our approach is the preferred approach for any other country in the OECS or CARICOM,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves offered, that it should be noted that St. Vincent and the Grenadines has two broad draft plans of operational significance. He said these are a National Health Disaster Plan; and a National Influenza Pandemic Plan (inclusive of COVID-19).
“These Plans are being refined, on an ongoing basis. Our professionals have been doing excellent work, in every material particular, in the battle against COVID-19.
“It is noteworthy, too, that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the first country in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean to have instituted quarantine measures on COVID-19, in respect of 15 persons, who entered St. Vincent and the Grenadines; this was way before St. Vincent and the Grenadines had its first confirmed case on March 11, 2020.”
Gonsalves noted that his administration “has not panicked, and it will not panic, in the face of the dreaded COVID-19.
“We are calm and focused. We have avoided the easy, alluring temptations of an excessive fear, which paralyses, and an hysteria, which induces an unbalanced over-reaction. Equally, we have decidedly not been complacent in facing the monumental, many-sided challenge of COVID-19; so, we have not under-reacted.”
He said as of Tuesday, April 14, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has done 91 tests for COVID-19, resulting in 12 confirmed cases, all of whom are directly imported.
“St. Vincent and the Grenadines, like all other CARICOM member-countries, is not yet out of the proverbial woods. So, we remain vigilant and focused. In the process, we know, always, that we can count on the love, grace, and blessings of Almighty God to see us through this terrible ordeal of COVID-19.
“Please be assured that the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not interested, and has never been interested, in initiating, or engaging, in any metaphoric village dog-fight with the Prime Minister of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petit Martinique. Both of us are the longest-serving Prime Ministers in CARICOM, who surely must have better things to do with our time, than to “throw words”, across the Caribbean Sea,” he reasoned.
Gonsalves said he is certain that “your statements were not reflective of any malicious intent, but that they had their genesis in wrong advice and/or misinformation.
“I suspect that a deliberately-truncated audio of my statement, so doctored by those stuffed with political malice against me, has been brought to your attention, and has gravely misled you. Please note the vital omission from the maliciously-circulated audio, in which I had emphasized that the actualization of the offer is to be effected in a “structured and organised manner.”
“I feel sure, that when you are seized of all the facts, including those which I have outlined herein, you are likely to reflect that your allegation of ‘irresponsibility’ against me, is wholly unfounded and wrong-headed. Accordingly, you may then grasp a measure of the honour, which I know that you possess — and withdraw it.
“If not, it may be open to persons of objectivity to conclude, that there is more in the mortar beside the pestle. I am sure, given our respective political histories, that you know what I mean,” Gonsalves alluded, adding that he hoped he had set the record straight, “in respect of this veritable storm-in-a-teacup, and shrug my shoulders at it as nothing but water-under-the-bridge”.