St Vincent and the Grenadines prime minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said he was neither taken aback nor embarrassed by a protest last night against his presence at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Gonsalves, who was at UWI to deliver a lecture entitled, Helping Hands or Damaging Hands — the Effect of International Relief on CARICOM Small Island Developing States, was disrupted by three placard-carrying women’s rights activists chanting, “Justice for all”, among them a UWI lecturer.
The protest was triggered by the prime minister’s handling of a case involving a 23-year-old former Vincentian model who was sent for psychiatric evaluation by a Kingstown magistrate following an altercation with the wife of Camillo Gonsalves, the prime minister’s son and in whose hands the Vincentian leader has placed the country’s financial affairs.
The young woman, Yugge Farrell, later claimed to have had a long running extramarital affair with the younger Gonsalves.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY after completing the lecture, Gonsalves said it did not escape him that fewer than a handful of people had participated in the protest.
“I was not surprised nor embarrassed by it because if you notice the people who are here were disgusted with the two or three persons who were protesting. I understand that one of them is a lecturer and they obviously could not get any students to follow them.
“If you notice, I dealt with them very politely and I am prepared to discuss whatever they think they have as an issue. At any time they can come to St Vincent and I will let them speak to all the people who know about women’s issues,” Gonsalves said.
Lecturer in Political Science at the Cave Hill campus Dr Kristina Hinds, Public Relations Officer of the National Organization for Women Marsha Hinds and Luci Hammans, a member of the Life in Leggings Movement, hijacked proceedings at the Henry Fraser Lecture Theatre for close to 15 minutes.
Despite the best efforts of campus security, the women refused to cease their incessant chants, and it took a member of the Royal Barbados Police Force to remove them from the hall.
The trio moved to the lobby and continued their chants, which at times could be heard over the Vincentian leader’s voice, until more police officers, carrying high powered rifles, escorted the women from the building.
Hinds told Barbados TODAY she was offended that the university had invited Gonsalves to speak to students, despite the shadow hanging over his son, as well as the prime minister’s own alleged indiscretions.
“I am disgusted because I do not agree with encouraging people with years of allegations to come and sit in a room and talk as though there aren’t things that need to be addressed. Yes, they are only allegations, but there are other persons who have had allegations brought against them and they have become persona non-grata but that does not seem to work for politicians in this region; and enough is enough. Those who want to sit down and clap for the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves are free to do so, but we are also free to say that we have had enough,” the outspoken lecturer said.
However, Gonsalves blamed the development on hysteria generated by what he deemed as one-sided reporting by a media outlet in St Vincent.
He therefore urged persons within the region to get all of the facts before coming to a conclusion on such sensitive issues.
“The fact of the matter is that jaundiced journalist’s report created a certain firestorm. The truth is that the report is factually incorrect,” said Gonsalves, who was referring to the scandal that broke on January 5, when Farrell was charged with using abusive language to Camillo’s wife, Karen Duncan-Gonsalves.
According to media reports from St Vincent, the prosecution did not give the court any information to support its application that Farrell be sent to the psychiatric hospital.
It was later revealed that she had been treated for mental health issues in the past.
Her treatment at the hands of the court triggered outrage locally and regionally, but the prime minister told Barbados TODAY allegations of a conspiracy with the court and the doctors made no sense.
“To believe what this university lecturer said is to believe in a giant conspiracy that Ralph [Gonsalves] conspired with two magistrates and I conspired with three medical doctors and I conspired with a psychiatrist who is in fact is the cousin of the lady concerned. This simply did not take place.
“There is a lack of understanding of the facts and as I have said persons are entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. In this case the facts show that the person . . . wronged is Karen. What has she done wrong? What has Camillo done wrong? Absolutely nothing!” the Vincentian leader said.