BELMOPAN, Fri. Aug 6, 2021– On Thursday, August 5, the 74-year-old Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, was struck in the head with a flying projectile during a protest by some 200 persons trying to impede the Parliament from discussing the implementation of a public health reform measure that would require most frontline workers on the island to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves’ head injury caused him to bleed profusely, and he was transported to a local hospital and later to Barbados for medical treatment, where he is now recovering.
In response to the grievous assault of St. Vincent’s head of state, the Government of Belize issued a statement condemning this act of violence.
The press release stated, “While the right to assembly is a fundamental freedom in democratic societies, violent protests can never be countenanced.” GOB further stated that it rebukes any act of violence, hate and further acts against democracy in the political life of the Caribbean Community, which has, for some time, demonstrated a long history of peace, democracy. and respect for rule of law and human rights.
GOB also called for the assailant responsible for the attack on Prime Minister Gonsalves to be brought to justice.
“The Government of Belize stands in solidarity with Prime Minister Gonsalves and the Government and people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and extends its best wishes to him for a speedy recovery,” said GOB in its press release.
Heads of CARICOM states from across the region have also expressed their disapproval of the act of violence against PM Gonsalves. The CARICOM Chairman, who is the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, called the incident “shameful and deplorable.” “The assault was serious and almost fatal. As it is, Dr Gonsalves’ injury to his head is still being medically assessed. The introduction of violence into the political life of CARICOM is shameful and deplorable and those responsible for it must be brought to justice with all due dispatch,” he said.
Browne further remarked, “The assault is all the more shameful because it occurred as the Prime Minister was walking into the national parliament, the highest law-making body of the State where a robust debate was taking place in full regard for democratic principles of dissent and discussion.”
In another release, the president of the Caribbean Federation of Police Welfare Associations (CFPWA), Anand Ramesar, also voiced his concerns. “This form of action must unequivocally never be accepted as a common norm in times of protest or any other situation,” said Ramesar’s release.
The release further noted that while the CFPWA understands the concerns that prompted the protest, the public must be aware that rights are accompanied by responsibilities. The CFPWA stated in the release that while it does not oppose vaccinations, it condemns mandatory vaccination, since, in the association’s view, such an approach is a violation of the rights of the Vincentian people as established in their constitution. “We believe that everyone has the right to make a conscious decision as to what goes inside their body,” the release further stated.
The CFPWA’s release further cited the core values outlined in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. This convention states, “No person shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.” The association’s release noted that, since many of the vaccines are only at phase 3 of its clinical trials, mandating vaccinations with these emergency-use authorized vaccines, defies the core values of this convention.