TAIPEI, TAIWAN: – Political parties in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) were encouraged to “control” their members and supporters as the two main parties prepared for protest and counter protest actions in the nation’s capital Monday afternoon.
The call came from socio-political group People’s Movement for Change (PMC) on the heels of a verbal clash between supporters of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) and the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) last week.
The PMC called for restraint “in order to avoid tension that could lead to clashes and violence”.
But even amidst the call, the ULP and NDP rallied their respective supporters to gather in close proximity of each other outside the House of Assembly during the presentation of the 2010 budget on Monday.
The NDP would be protesting what it called the “major issues confronting the nation” while ULP supporters have been called out in solidarity with their government.
The Dr. Ralph Gonsalves headed ULP will seek a third consecutive term in office in general elections that pundits say should come by the end of this year but are constitutionally due by March 2011.
The NDP on Jan. 14 issued a media release announcing protest actions “throughout the budget exercise”, beginning on Jan. 19 during the presentation of the estimates and continuing on Jan. 25 “throughout the actual budget debate”.
Hans King, Press Secretary to Gonsalves, in signing off Shake-up — a pro-ULP programme on WE FM — Monday afternoon, called on ULP supporters to bring placards and gather outside the House of Assembly.
He said speakers and projectors would relay the debates inside the House of Assembly, which are broadcast live on radio and television.
“Remember, conduct yourself peacefully, and civilly. This is all about peace; this is all about support; this is all about solidarity,” King said, adding “We are not out there to fight or war with anybody.”
Meanwhile, callers to the opposition-sponsored New Times programme on NICE Radio asked if the Commissioner of Police had approved the ULP’s activity and questioned the logic in doing so.
The PMC in a statement on Sunday warned that “[n]ow is not the time for scoring cheap political points without regard for the consequence”. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)
“A singular thought should preoccupy all of us: the development and security of our country and the protection of all our citizens,” PMC General Secretary Jomo Thomas said.
Special Services Unit (SSU) lawmen removed about a dozen ULP supporters from alongside hundred of NDP supporters at an NDP protest outside the House of Assembly last week Tuesday.
The ULP supporters, bearing placards praising their government, had invaded the NDP’s protest which was approved by the Commissioner of Police, as the law dictates.
I Witness-News was unable to verify if any ULP activities were planned or advertised for the time and venue as last week’s protest and Thomas said he was “alarmed by the dangerous escalation of rhetoric and action”.
He called on both parties to “to shoulder the national duty to provide bold, sound, responsible, clear-sighted and far-sighted leadership”.
“The deepening of the tribal and partisan practices evidenced by the protest action and counter action, demand a strategy on the part of the security forces which strictly draws and maintains a line in the streets across which neither side must cross.”
Thomas noted that the NDP had called on its members to stage protest actions, adding that the ULP decided to hold counter demonstrations in close proximity to those staged by the opposition.
He said while SVG’s democracy is strong enough to accommodate multiple demonstrations, “the onus is on those staging the counter demonstration to warn their members against activities and actions that may provoke tension or violence”.
The PMC believes that the ULP has a greater duty to show even more responsibility and restraint.
“As the party wielding state and political power, the ULP is called on to display a greater sense of leadership. It must refrain from any activity which might appear to stoke the fires on division.”
Thomas said either of the parties seen to be encouraging confrontation or violence “will be made to pay a heavy political price” by Vincentians.