The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has condemned the injury of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves during the protest in Kingstown, on Thursday, as well as an injury to two protesters, one of whom the party says was struck by a police officer.
Gonsalves has been flown to Barbados for further medical attention after being wounded in the head by an object reportedly thrown at him as he was walking to the Parliament building around 5:15 p.m.
Opposition Leader Godwin Friday, speaking in Parliament, Thursday night, noted that Minister of Tourism Carlos James had repeatedly used the words “incitement of a mob” in reference to speeches that Friday and Central Kingstown MP and opposition vice-president, St. Clair Leacock, had made to protesters outside the Parliament.
“By no stretch of the imagination can that be an accurate description,” the opposition leader said of James’ comment.
“People came to hear about the legislation that was in the parliament and I fail to see how addresses that explain what the bills were about and the impact they are likely to have and why it was important for people to be present to show their opposition to the bill is incitement to violence against any person.”
The NDP, the Public Service Union, the Nursing Association, the Police Welfare Association, the Teachers’ Union and members of the public held a joint protest outside Parliament.
Protesters registered their dissatisfaction with changes to the Medical Officers Act and the Public Health Act — which lawmakers passed into law Thursday night, without opposition support — and other national issues.
Friday noted to Parliament that had repeatedly said during the meeting that “the injury to the Honourable Prime Minister today is wrong, it is something that we, in the opposition, condemn and it should never happen, not in any politics here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“That is a categorical repudiation of any act of that sort by anyone, whether they claim to be in support of the NDP or any other entity. And I will condemn that always,” the opposition leader said.
He said that government legislators have to be responsible in the comments they make about the incident.
“We are in a social media environment and to suggest that members on this side incited violence against the prime minister because we addressed fellow Vincentians about a bill in the house and to explain to them what the bill were about — those were the sum total of my comments to the crowd, to explain to them what it was about and why it was important and why I thought it was important for them to be there.”
Friday said that from his record in the house, he is known as someone who has always called for people to exercise their democratic right and to do so peacefully and “in a way that elevates our public discourse”.
Responding to Friday’s comments, Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, said:
“Contrition seems to be finally winding its way into the hearts of the opposition as the gravity of this attempt becomes more and more obvious.”
The finance minister, who is the prime minister’s son, had earlier decried opposition lawmakers, who, in Friday’s absence, had not condemned the violence against the prime minister.
“I encourage them, respectfully, to engage in some reflection on their actions and their statements that have led to this. This was entirely foreseeable. We have been travelling down this road for a while,” Gonsalves said.
“Every week, every month, a new reason to come out and demonstrate, spurious as they are; hyping people for political gain.
“But I want to tell that assailant, while you are in jail, your leaders will still be here in Parliament. And they will find other pawns to fight their proxy battles. Let us not let partisanship descend into tribalism. And let us all say a prayer for the health and the recovery of the prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Gonsalves had earlier appealed to the assailant to turn himself in to police, saying that there was video footage of the incident.
“There is video footage of you making your attempt on the prime minister. I sincerely believe it will go better for you, if you go and get a lawyer and turn yourself in,” the finance minister said.
In a statement several hours later, the NDP again condemned the attack on the prime minister as well as the attack on two protesters who were “also assaulted and battered”.
“One of the protestors, Mr. John Mofford suffered an injury to his head after being struck by a police officer; he was also rushed to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital for medical attention,” the NDP said.
The party quoted Friday as saying, “We categorically reject violence in all forms and certainly, I do not condone such acts. I wish a speedy recovery to the Prime Minister and the other persons who were injured in the protest. Let us use this sad event to reaffirm that we must never fight hate with hate. The New Democratic Party unequivocally condemns all acts of violence and calls on all who committed these acts of violence to be dealt with by the full force of the law.”