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Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 12, IWN — The Government had to declare last Friday a day of mourning in order to fly the national flag at half-mast in respect of the passing of former president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told Parliament on Monday that before the Flag Act was passed, the Prime Minister could simply instruct the Commissioner of Police to fly the flag at half-mast.

“We can’t do it like that anymore. There is a particular procedure, there is a process under the Flag Act and certain specifications are listed in respect of an automaticity declared by the Act itself,” Gonsalves said.

He was responding to what he said were persons questioning the declaration of a day of mourning for a person who is not Vincentian.

“There are days of national mourning declared by the law itself and no one requires any instruction to the Commissioner of Police or anybody to have the flag flown at half-mast.

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“But there is, as in any sensible law, a general category where discretion is given to the Minister to so designate an occasion for mourning and for the flying of the flag at half-mast. That is what that is about,” Gonsalves said.

No declaration is needed before the flag could be flown at half-mast on the death of the British Monarch, a sitting Member of Parliament, a Governor General, or the Speaker of the House of Assembly.

Gonsalves said that people seem not to wants to read to be informed.

“The more people become educated, the more they become learnt in book knowledge, the less inclined they are to read anything. They just allow their political prejudice to run away with them. We get this kind of uninformed commentaries,” he told Parliament.

Gonsalves, his wife, Eloise and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sen. Douglas Slater attended Chavez’s funeral in Venezuela on Friday.

Chavez died on March 5 after battling cancer for some two years.

Correction: An earlier version of this story identified Sen. Douglas Slater as Minister of Health. He is actually Minister of Foreign Affairs.