ST. VINCENT (Feb. 28): – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has said that police are investigating three teachers at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College who reportedly engaged in homosexual acts with male students at the institution.
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Legal Affairs, however, reminded Vincentians that the accused teachers are entitled to due legal process and warned against vigilante justice.
“Now, I understand the outpouring of people and I heard some of it on the radio stations and it has been reported to me about the intensity of public feeling. But the intensity of public feeling has always to be channeled in a manner where due process is observed,” Gonsalves told reporters on Monday, Feb. 28.
The issue has been hotly debated on interactive radio programmes and some contributors have expressed anti-same sex rhetoric, citing Christian principles and the Bible.
Homosexual acts, including among consenting adults, are illegal in St. Vincent and the Grenadines but are not openly policed.
Gonsalves explained that the issue has been called to the attention of the Ministry of Education (MOE), the police, and the Service Commissions Department.
“I don’t want to say how the Ministry of Education was advised of this matter. … The police subsequently became involved; I am not saying whether the Ministry made the report …” he said.
“I have to be mindful that persons who are accused of a particular conduct that they have all their presumptions in their favour intact,” said Gonsalves, a lawyer.
He said the MOE, “drew the matter in formal terms” to the attention of the chief personnel officer (CPO).
He said that the CPO is part and parcel of the apparatus that services the Public Service Commission, “the constitutional and juridical authority to address any issue of discipline arising in matters of this kind”.
Gonsalves said he was “not ducking the issue. I am just addressing an issue of how governance has to proceed.
“In the same way that we get revolted by the idea if somebody chops off the head of a farmer — you would get an outpouring of public anger, righteous indignation. I understand all that and as part of our freedoms – people are right and correct to express their indignations,” he said.
“But, in that context, you can’t do what is asked: to string the fellow up and hang him. He that is accused is entitled to the due processes. That means you have to charge him, if there is sufficient evidence, and sufficient evidence include admissible evidence in court … and to have it deliberated upon.
“I am not in prosecutions, I always say that. … The question of the police and the Director of Public Prosecution, that is their business. I don’t get involved in that because the DPP office is independent of the executive,” Gonsalves said.
He, however, said that because of the nature of the accusations, the office of the Attorney General would necessarily be involved in advising the MOE and the office of the CPO “as to the mode of proceeding”.
Gonsalves further said that the MOE “would be issuing a statement and I imagine that the statement would in all probability include an affirmation that the Ministry is duty bound to ensure that the rules and regulations relating to the delivery of education in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are observed professionally and that the laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are obeyed and followed within the educational system”.