By Demion McTair. Updated 6:12 p.m., Tuesday, May 26, 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
Kingstown, St. Vincent (ONE NEWS SVG) – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says he intends to write to Grenada’s Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell to say that St. Vincent will accept Grenada’s offer to supply fuel to Union Island.
Union Island’s lone gas station exploded on May 19, injuring three persons, two of which succumbed to their burn injuries on May 24.
Sources on Union Island say the incident has left a fuel shortage on the island for motorists and others.
In a press release issued on May 24, the Government of Grenada said it was offering refuelling assistance to residents of Union Island.
“Pending St. Vincent’s acceptance of Grenada’s offer, refuelling support will be provided to the neighbouring residents of Union Island, between the business hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. daily.” – the release stated.
In response, Prime Minister Gonsalves said on May 25, “I should write Prime Minister Mitchell, to say to him that we’d accept this offer and actually, we’d do it in an organised and structured way”.
Sources in Union Island told One News SVG on Tuesday (May 26), that in the interim, getting fuel from the grenadine island of Canouan is an option they have been exploring.
But, Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves addressed this issue and expressed concerns about the transport of fuel from Canouan to Union Island by persons.
The Prime Minister said “the journey to Canouan is a long journey”, and that the journey by individuals to transport fuel might put people’s lives at risk as there are “security and environmental issues”.
A REBOUND FOR TWO LEADERS FROM A RECENT PUBLIC SPAT?
In its May 24 press release, Grenada’s government, Led by Dr. Keith Mitchell, said it “recognises the importance of being our brother’s keeper which it considers to be even more important during this period”.
But, in statements made on April 6, Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said “we have to protect our brothers and sisters in Carriacou and Petite Martinique from what is taking place in the Grenadines at this particular time”, referring to St. Vincent’s open borders amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday April 10, St. Vincent’s Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves issued an invitation to the people of the Grenadian islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique (which are closer to Union Island), to come to St. Vincent to get supplies if they are having difficulties getting them.
At the time, Grenada’s borders were closed.
Dr. Gonsalves said “If you want to get cooking gas, we can help you, but let us do it in a structured and organized manner”.
In response, Grenada’s Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell said of Dr. Gonsalves’ invite: “It is a grossly irresponsible action that has the potential for not only legal consequences but also pose a significant threat to public health and public safety”.
He said on April 13, that Dr. Gonsalves’ “invite’ is “something that I think has raised the eye-brows of a lot of people, so, it would not be swept under the carpet”.
Dr. Gonsalves later responded by penning a letter to Dr. Mitchell to clear falsehoods. In the letter, Dr. Gonsalves told Dr. Mitchell that he (Dr. Mitchell) was “wrongly advised or badly misinformed on the facts on the issues including those arising from my recent statement”.
In his letter, Dr, Gonsalves said it was a falsehood that he “encouraged or invited residents of Carriacou and Petite Martinique to enter St. Vincent and the Grenadines in defiance of your country’s closure of ports, curfew, and “lockdown””.
Dr. Gonsalves said “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 organized manner””.
In his April 6 remarks, Grenada’s Prime Minister had said “A lot of people get food stuff from St. Vincent and therefore, one has to be careful. The borders between St. Vincent, The Grenadines and Petite Martinique is almost open. The Commissioner and his people would have to be doing a lot more work”.
On April 22, the privately-run Vincentian vessel, MV Gem Star II facilitated the transportation of goods between Union Island and Carriacou.
Owner of the vessel, Ann Deroche, told One News SVG on April 22, that trade in goods happened as “the merchants in Carriacou cleared it with their side of the government, I don’t know who they cleared it with… but they cleared it and, we cleared it on this side with Maritime Administration”.
After the trade, Prime Minister Gonsalves said the impasse with Grenada’s Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell is “water under the bridge” and repeated his initial call for trade to be conducted in a “structured and organized manner”.
In its May 24 press release, the Government of Grenada said “Carriacou is located just eight miles south of Union Island, and like the rest of the tri-island state, borders were closed on March 23, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pending St. Vincent’s acceptance of Grenada’s offer, refuelling support will be provided to the neighbouring residents of Union Island, between the business hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. daily”.
The release continued:
“In the midst of the war on COVID-19, public health and safety remain a priority; therefore, all recommended protocols will be duly enforced, even as this helping hand is extended”.
“The relevant authorities will determine the recommended protocols under which the proposed refueling assistance will take place and steps will be taken to ensure full compliance” – the release stated.
The Government of Grenada also extended sincere condolences on the passing of the gas station owner, who succumbed to injuries sustained in the fire.
FULL PRESS RELEASE: