While attending a funeral of a former political ally, who eventually became one of the strongest critics of his administration, Gonsalves was booed by scores of mourners attending the funeral service of Elwardo EG Lynch.
Their anger was influenced by Gonsalves’ legal actions against Lynch who was sued by the Prime Minister for slander and made to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was also suggested that this ruined Lynch financially.
Both Lynch and Gonsalves were once comrades in the Movement for National Unity, which has since been disbanded. Lynch went on to join the New Democratic Party, NDP. The relationship between the two deteriorated especially after Lynch used his regular radio talk show program on NICE radio station in St. Vincent to criticize the actions of Gonsalves in government.
But Gonsalves sued Lynch on numerous occasions and eventually won a case that demanded a fine of EC$206,000. After Lynch fell ill and was hospitalized for an extended period of time, he died on Wednesday 16th July and was buried over the weekend, (Saturday 19th July).
Many in the opposition had warned the Prime Minister not to attend the funeral but Gonsalves insisted that though Lynch in the later years turned out to be his political archrival he also remembered the many years when they were allies working in the same political organization. He also said that he was invited by Lynch’s family to be present at the funeral.
However when he did show at the funeral, Gonsalves was booed and jeered by many of those mourners present. The barrage of unkind words continued for over ten continuous minutes as the Prime Minister stood behind the podium hoping to make his tribute. His body guards stood close by and Lynch’s daughter, Shafia London, tried unsuccessfully to calm the crowd but they refused to silence their chants of disapproval.
A number of persons could be seen whispering to the Prime Minister and eventually he gave in to the mounting pressure and instead of delivering his tribute, he took his seat after making a few remarks to explain that he was invited to the service and that Lynch was once his friend and he came to honour him.
This however did not tame the booing crowd as they continued even after Gonsalves took his seat. It was the singing of a hymn by the choir that eventually changed the mood in the interim period.
In the audience was the country’s Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace, along with members of parliament and the former Prime Minister, Sir James Mitchell.
In those few remarks uttered by Gonsalves he said, “I came here at the invitation of the family to speak. I want to make sure that the dignity of this event is maintained in accordance with our Christian traditions and beliefs. I have known EG Lynch for a very long time and I have come to honour him with my presence. I shall publish my tribute at an appropriate time. And I want to thank the family and the vast majority of people who are gathered here who wish to have a funeral service to proceed in peace and dignity. And having done so in accordance with the wishes of the family and I express my condolences to them. I thank them for (their) solidarity and may the Almighty God continue to bless them and in respect of EG Lynch, for his soul to rest in peace and light perpetual shine upon them.”
All throughout those remarks the booing was not only maintained but intensified as Gonsalves tried to look calm and undeterred, but it was obvious that the harsh reception impacted him.