Protest at Gonsalves UWI lecture

A public lecture at the University of the West Indies (UWI) by St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves was disrupted last Thursday night by a small group of placard-bearing protesters, chanting “justice for all women,” according to reports.

The disruption came amid rising public pressure on Gonsalves over his handling of the Yugge Farrell affair involving his son, Camillo Gonsalves, the finance minister, who is accused of having an extra marital relationship with a 22-year-old former model, reported the online newsletter Barbados TODAY.

It said Lecturer in Political Science at UWI’s Cave Hill Campus in Barbados, Dr. Kristina Hinds, public relations officer of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Marsha Hinds, and Luci Hammans, a member of the Life in Leggings Movement, demanded justice for women.

The protest lasted for about 10 minutes before security officials intervened and escorted members of the group out of the UWI lecture theatre, Barbados TODAY said.

But the publication said Gonsalves, who was at UWI to deliver the lecture on “Helping Hands or Damaging Hands — the Effect of International Relief on CARICOM Small Island Developing States,” asserted that he was neither taken aback nor embarrassed by 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,” the Vincentian leader told the paper. “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,” he added. “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.”

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,” she said. “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 Hon. Ralph Gonsalves are free to do so, but we are also free to say that we have had enough,” Hinds added.

But Gonsalves blamed the development on hysteria generated by what he deemed as one-sided reporting by a media outlet in St. Vincent, according to Barbados TODAY, urging 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 prime minister said.

“The truth is that the report is factually incorrect,” he said, alluding to the scandal that broke on Jan. 5, when Farrell was charged with using abusive language to Camillo Gonsalves’s wife, Karen Duncan-Gonsalves.

Barbados TODAY referred to media reports emanating from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which stated that 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, Barbados TODAY said.

It said Farrell’s treatment at the hands of the court triggered outrage locally and regionally.

But Prime Minister Gonsalves told Barbados TODAY that the 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,” he said. “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,” he added. “In this case, the facts show that the person wronged is Karen. What has she done wrong? What has Camillo done wrong? Absolutely nothing!”

In early February, a prominent lawyer representing the former top Vincentian model described as “a colossal misuse and abuse of state machinery” the case in which the ex-model was sent to a psychiatric institution for evaluation.

The case has gripped the nation and has garnered national, regional and international outrage ever since Magistrate Bertie Pompey, of the Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Magistrate’s Court, ordered, on Jan. 5, that Farrell, 22, be sent to the St Vincent and Grenadines’ Mental Health Center for a two-week evaluation.

Farrell had pleaded not guilty to an “abusive language” charge after reportedly calling the day before Duncan-Gonsalves a “dirty bitch.”

On completion of the two-week evaluation, Farrell was again ordered to return to the same mental institution, the country’s lone mental health facility, by another magistrate while he decided on arguments presented by the prosecution and the defense.

Farrell has since been released from the mental hospital.

“The magistrate was wrong to commit her to ‘mental home’ [the mental hospital], when she was already pleaded,” Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, one of the lawyers representing Farrell, told Caribbean Life. “The ‘mental home’ was wrong to give her drugs, when she was sent for evaluation only.

“PM [Prime Minister] Gonsalves was wrong to say police can go behind defendant’s back privately and tell him information to influence the case he is to try,” added Bacchus-Baptiste, a newly-appointed New Democratic Party (NDP) senator.

“The medical doctors who said she [Farrell] was unfit to plead, after plying her with three anti-psychotic drugs, was not well qualified. In any event, the well-trained psychiatrist I brought in [in the country] said the doctor was wrong to determine in her report [that] Yugge was unfit to plead,” she continued.

“It was a colossal misuse and abuse of state machinery,” Bacchus-Baptiste affirmed. “Camillo Gonsalves is morally wrong to remain silent and must resign. [It] will happen in any civilized country.”

Meantime, at the urging of the prime minister, Camillo Gonsalves, who reportedly is being “groomed” to succeed his father, has maintained “dignified silence” on the matter. The Gonsalves are also lawyers.