Following the death of Sir James Mitchell, former Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, current PM Dr Ralph Gonsalves has revealed what he says is a synopsis of what transpired between himself and Sir James in Grenada.
The most dramatic of our political acts together was when we went on the Grand Anse Beach in Grenada at the end of April 2000.
We hammered out the agreement, which brought his government prematurely to an end consequent upon the protests, what they called the roadblock revolution. I never called it that, so whenever I refer to it, I call it the so-called, Because what took place was far more than a roadblock.
I would say that because, you know, on the beach, if I say this, I’ve spoken about this before, I wrote about it, I don’t know how many persons heard it.
This meeting was going on in Grenada. He attended an OECS heads of government meeting, and we were invited to participate in the discussion, because both OECS and CARICOM wanted to resolve the impasse, and Keith Mitchell was chair of OECS, and Denzil Douglas was chair of CARICOM at the time.
A number of us went over along with persons from civil society, trade union, business and the like. And there was this discussion in this room, you know, and a kind of a lecture theatre atmosphere, as I remember it, they were on the platform.
I hardly participated because when I was called upon to participate, I said, you know, I come to Grenada for one thing, that is to get the date for the next general election. Many discussions were going on and a lot of people talking, completely irrelevant, and some people were talking who had no influence on events taking place in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
I answered a few questions and then as time went on from the early evening, we must have been there; I don’t know about four hours talking, and as we got close to 11 pm thereabout, he just said, Listen, I think Ralph and me should go and hold a conversation.
So we came outside, well, everybody applauded. We came outside, and I said there was a restaurant we had to pass through for the hotel; I said we could go and sit in the corner, and he said no, no, let’s go on the beach. So we went through the gate and went down the beach, and I tell you, he was fuming about the police, the civil servants, the teachers, people generally who he said that he had helped, and they kicked him while he was under pressure. He was fuming about it. And I said to him, I said, well, we didn’t come out here for you to let off steam, you know, we’re supposed to talk about this thing.
He said, Listen, let’s put all the cards on the table. Let us try not to pull anything over anybody eye; let’s look out for the people, for the country, I say, fair enough.
He said, look, we have, he said, we have just done, because he was re-elected in June 2018 with only 45 percent of the vote and we had 55, but he had one seat more than us. The margin was too big in popular support, you know, so it became difficult for him to govern.
He said, look, we have three years plus, the three months grace, he said, but let’s not bother with that, let’s split it. I continue for another 18 months, and then we could have the election. I said to him, no, no, that’s not possible, that’s entirely unacceptable.
I told him we had the forces mobilized to make it impossible for you to get anything done. He said, well, you know I could fight back bring out my people to, you know. However, Both of us agreed that such would not be suitable for the country because there would be a real impasse and potential for real disorder.
Then he said, ok, ok, tell me what you want. I said, well, it’s now the end of April, the beginning of May but I would say maybe by September. He said, no, no, too soon, the election list and all the rest of it. I said, Well, ok December then.
He said we got to go into the new year. I said when in the new year you’re thinking about. He said, let’s agree, and elections will be held on May 15th. I said, but that is your birthday. You want to go back and say Ralph agree with you to have an election on your birthday, and he laughs. You see, at that point, he tried to manoeuvre himself in the most advantageous position, even symbolically, you know.
I said, ok, January, because I realized that if he agreed to January, January is usually a tough month after Christmas; he said April, and I said February, and before I could say anything, it’s like we were in a bazaar, he put his hand out, and say damn it, man, let’s shake hands on this thing by March 31st.
I said, well, I’ll have to talk to the guys who came with me; when I came out, and you know, and I remember Glenn Jackson was in the public service union and Glenn and some other person said, no, no, that’s too far, and I said listen to me. If James Mitchell goes back to St. Vincent and tell them that he offered to have an election by March, cut short his term by two and a half years, and Ralph say he wants it now, we would lose support; right-thinking people would think that we’re not being reasonable.
So the following day, when we reassembled to sign after we signed on to everything, I said quietly to him, by the way, March 31st is my mother’s birthday, and we both laughed.
That’s it. There are more details, but that is the broad summary of those things which are relevant.