The persons who heckled Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves at the funeral of Elwardo “E.G.” Lynch on Saturday behaved in a manner that is “alien to our Christian tradition and teachings,” Gonsalves told I-Witness News on Monday.
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Gonsalves was booed and jeered as he entered the church immediately behind the cortege.
The booing and jeering intensified and at least one bell was rung as he was called upon to pay tribute to Lynch.
Lynch, who gained national fame as host of the opposition New Democratic Party’s (NDP) “New Times” programme on NICE Radio was Gonsalves’ former political ally.
In 2003, Gonsalves sued Lynch for defamation and spoke with derision about Lynch’s offer of a shake hand while asking for forgiveness.
In the lead up to the funeral, some NDP activists and supporters said Gonsalves should not be allowed to speak at Lynch’s funeral.
“What I will say is that a small minority, some may even say a tiny minority of the persons who were jeering or booing, that they have conducted themselves in a manner which is alien to our Christian tradition and teachings, regarding respect for funerals, respect for the deceased, respect for family, and respect for the place itself, the place of worship,” Gonsalves told I-Witness News on Monday.
“The church is not a fish market. It is a place of sanctity and solemnity and a funeral is an event of community solidarity with the family of the deceased. And even the person who is dead, there are people who go to funerals who may not have been on the best terms with somebody who is dead, but they see it as an opportunity for reconciliation and healing and closing of a chapter. That is the tradition which I know, since I am going up,” Gonsalves said.
Leader of the Opposition and President of the NDP, Arnhim Eustace and NDP founder and former prime minister Sir James Mitchell, did not attempt to quell the jeering.
“Most right-thinking people will see that as a failure of leadership on the part of Mr. Eustace, and I think also a failure of leadership on the part of the priest who was in charge of the conduct of the funeral service,” Gonsalves said in reference to Rev. Fr. Ulric C. Jones.
Regarding Sir James, Gonsalves said:
“I don’t think so, because, Sir James himself, when he spoke, what that same minority would have considered unfavorable comments … you would have heard the reaction from that minority…
“They seems to have thought that this was some sort of a bellicose funeral rally,” Gonsalves said, adding that the vast majority of mourners conducted themselves appropriately.
“This point has to be made on behalf of the Anglican community and on behalf of all the persons assembled there that they wanted an orderly church service in concert with our Christian tradition,” Gonsalves said.
“You know there were a lot of ULP supporters at that funeral,” he said.
When asked to comment on the fact that some ULP supporters engaged in loud engages with NDP supporters inside the church, Gonsalves said:
“Well, I would wish that when people go to church that people don’t quarrel with one another. You go to church; it is a community. The same way, when you go to church some people don’t want you to shake their hand, give a sign of peace. All those things are completely out of order,” he said.
“A church is a place of sanctity. You don’t stone it, you don’t behave badly in it, you behave respectfully, you don’t curse in it, you don’t quarrel in it. … It is not a place for worrisome behavior,” Gonsalves told I-Witness News.