Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has blamed a “terrible flu” for his absence from Parliament on Thursday where government legislators spent nearly six hours praising his leadership of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) that has enjoyed an unprecedented five successive terms in office.
Gonsalves, who turns 76 in August, said he has been taking antibiotics and other medications and apologized for missing the Parliament meeting, adding that he is looking forward to getting better by Monday, when the ULP celebrates 21 years in office, first defeating the New Democratic Party (NDP) in 2001.
“I got a terrible cold, a terrible flu. Apparently, it is going around. I avoided the COVID-19 (coronavirus) and end up with the flu, it really mash me up,” Gonsalves told listeners to his party’s radio station, adding that he had contracted the flu virus at a time when he was tired.
“I have been pushing myself to the limit, so my body became susceptible. I knew from the beginning it wasn’t COVID, I did not have any of the symptoms,” he said, noting that his COVID-19 tests on Saturday and Wednesday were negative.
“This one is a flu, a terrible one… It has not been pleasant. I have to be so constrained, and I have always been very active,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister, Montgomery Daniel, announcing Gonsalves’ illness in Parliament on Thursday, told legislators “I believe you are aware that he has fallen sick. Like all of us, being human, one day we will fall sick as well”.
He said when he contacted the prime minister, he was informed that Gonsalves would not attend the parliamentary session, adding “but, knowing the prime minister, of course, he may very well be with us here today. You never know. But we want to wish him well.”
Daniel said Prime Minister Gonsalves is “an outstanding son of the soil (who) has worked hard for this country, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and we want to ask that he has a speedy recovery and be able to join us in the near future.”
Daniel also announced that two government legislators were either absent as a result of being overseas on government business or in the case of Senator Rochard Ballah sick at home “again”.
In January, Ballah was among eight government lawmakers who missed part or all of the budget debate after they tested positive for COVID-19.
To ensure that the budget was passed within the timeline the government set out, the prime minister revoked Ballah’s senatorial appointment temporarily and replaced him with former Culture Minister Rene Baptiste. Ballah was subsequently re-appointed senator.
Opposition Leader Dr. Godwin Friday in wishing Gonsalves well said he wished him a speedy recovery.
Prime Minister Gonsalves is among the longest-serving leaders in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region.