KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Minister of National Security, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves does not agree with one of the tactics the police have used to deal with violence at rural carnival events even as sponsor say violence could affect their contributions to rural festivals.
Police on Tuesday defended their policy of shutting down Carnival events where violence breaks out, saying is “not a heavy-handed approach”.
But Gonsalves said Wednesday that he does not agree with such an approach.
He spoke on radio of a development in South Rivers where police shut down an event although organisers had received permission to hold the activities within a certain timeframe.
“There is no disorder, how can you lock it down … I heard that it was announced by police on radio without any qualification that if there is a disruption, that they will close down entire event,” Gonsalves said.
He said the police should deal with unruly people rather than shutting down entire events.
“A lot of people underestimate the social value of festivals such as carnival — I do not. … I understand the sociology of the country,” he said.
He noted that people choice to participate or opt out of carnival activities.
“But people who want to enjoy themselves, let them enjoy themselves. …
We have to live and let live and balance the thing,” Gonsalves further stated.
Police have also prevented another event from happening altogether because of violence, Assistant Superintendent of Police Jonathan Nicholls said Tuesday.
“That is the stance we are going to take. It is not a heavy-handed approach,” the police spokesperson said at a Carnival Development Corporation (CDC) press briefing.
“We are looking at incidents and where we can intervene and remove perpetrators, we will do that but if we see the possibility of reprisal and vendetta vengeance and so on, we have to do what is right and ensure that citizens are not exposed to any unnecessary violence,” Nicholls said.
“We don’t just close festivals. We consult with the CDC…” he reiterated.
Police, Nicholls said, have several strategies to prevent crimes and keep citizens safe during Vincy Mas, which moves into high gear on Friday and climaxes with Mardi Gras on July 10.
Nicholls urged commuters to be patient with rerouted traffic and the delays expected to result from the stop and search of vehicles.
He further encouraged carnival-goers to leave all weapons at home, property-owner to secure and have their property well lit and parents to leave their children with responsible adults.
He further said that the Office of the Commission of Police would discuss with the CDC strategies to cope with the large number of rural carnival, which he said has taken “a heavy toll” on resources of the police, with some cops having to give up their furlough.
The situation, he said, is compounded when persons use Carnival activities to carry out personal vendettas.
“… we can have a hot festival minus the incidents of violence,” Nicholls said.
Sponsors warn against violence
Meanwhile, representatives of two Vincy Mas sponsors have warned against the potential negative impact of violence on the festival.
“… sponsors do not like to spend their money on events that have a violent overtones,” Fitz Huggins of LIME said at the CDC press briefing.
Huggins said that at rural carnival, “the ugly face of violence has been seen and we just want to warn these guys to keep it under control because you would not be able to attract sponsors if your event is not being controlled.”
Lamont Medica of the St. Vincent Brewery Ltd. said his company is pleased with the organisation of rural carnivals.
“I would just like to advise the persons who are going out there that are going out to support these rural carnivals and other CDC events that when we engage in these violent activities the police has to do their jobs they have to shut down the shows, the promoters and organiser they can’t make any money from the show and then that affects what they can do for the next year or next show,” he said.
“So I will just like to urge persons to stay away from violence and let’s keep it a violence free Carnival,” he further stated.
He said his company is committed to assisting the police and the CDC in ensuring adherence to the No Glass Bottle Policy and has increased production of canned drinks.
The Policy prohibits the sale of drinks in glass bottles at carnival events. Glass bottles are often used as projectiles during squabbles, injuring innocent persons.