ST. VINCENT:- Vincentian students at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Kingston, Jamaica had on Tuesday not been affected by the violence that has left at least 27 dead in that Caribbean capital.
Journalists Sean Rose and Rochelle Baptiste told I Witness-News via email that it was business as usual at UWI’s Mona Campus, with students from the Medical Science Department taking examinations.
“I am presently located on one of the Hall of Residence on UWI Mona Campus, which is located about 20 minutes [drive] away from where the gun battles are taking place. We are pretty much safe for the time and have been told that there is no need to panic but we must be alert,” Baptiste said.
The assurance came from the members of the Vincentian Residents Association even as the university issued a bulletin saying that normal operations would continue on Tuesday. (Go to the homepage to subscribe to I Witness-News)
“I did go on campus earlier today, as everything seemed the same. … [T]he majority of the student population has already left for the summer break. Those who are still here might be waiting for the start of summer school or are finalising exams or projects,” she said.
President of the Vincentian Student Association, Sean Rose, said he was doing an internship at a location about 15 minutes drive away from the unrest.
“I am concerned but I don’t feel threatened at this point,” Rose said.
Rose said no measure, in addition to the campus security system, had been communicated to foreign students.
“UWI is operating as usual. This could change in a matter of hours, but that’s my own estimation,” he said.
Rose said that while he had heard exchanges of gunfire but “the security forces seem reliable and appear to have the situation within their grasp”.
Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves commented on the situation on Tuesday saying he would not allow citizens to be held at ransom by “undemocratic powers”. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, further said he was considering whether he should travel to Kingston next week to deliver a lecture as had been planned before the unrest.
He however did not comment on the status of Vincentians in Jamaica or if there was a need to evacuate them.
“I haven’t received any official information from anyone. However members of the Vincentian Residents Association here have been keeping in touch with us to ensure that we are okay and out of harm’s way, which we are,” Baptiste said.
She added, “I am not sure if the others have been contacted by the government [of SVG]. However, I have been keeping in constant contact with Sean [Rose], who is the president of the Vincentian Student Association here.
“I ventured out on the first night the incident started, which was on Sunday, and … can tell you at around 10 p.m., the streets were … deserted.
“Right now, I am keeping on campus, inside my room, preparing for the start of summer school next week,” Baptiste said.
Soldiers and police in Jamaica have clashed in gun battles as lawmen try to execute an extradition warrant on allege drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who is wanted by the United States.
In addition to those killed, 25 civilians and seven law men were injured while police have detained 211 persons, including six women.