KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (CMC) — A senior government minister Friday said that police had detained a woman in connection with the injuries sustained by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves when he was struck on the head with an object as he walked through an opposition and trade union-organised protest on Thursday.
Local Government Minister, Julian Francis, speaking in Parliament during the early hours of Friday morning, said that the incident cannot be described as “an accident”.
The police have not issued any statement regarding the detention of anyone in connection with the injuries to Gonsalves, but Francis told legislators that the woman, whom he did not identify, was already in police custody “and begging to go and apologise to Dr. Gonsalves.
“I say no apologies. Apology for what? Because you get lock up you want to apologise? No go and apologise to Dr. (Godwin) Friday (Opposition Leader). You can’t go in front my political leader,” said Francis, who is also the general secretary of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) and a cousin to Gonsalves.
Francis warned that while Gonsalves “is a man who does get soft sometimes …I don’t want to see this thing repeated.
“I am appealing to [Godwin Friday] the leader of the political party called the New Democratic Party] to control your people on the road. Control them. The four kings can’t run this country. There are kings and there are queens, sometimes you don’t even know which is which, especially in that group there,” Francis said.
Prime Minister Gonsalves is due to undergo further medical treatment in Barbados, and according to his son, Camillo, who is also the Finance Minister, it was “necessary to fly the prime minister to Barbados to receive an MRI consequent on the injuries.
“I want to say that clearly. This is not some scratch. This was an attempt on the prime minister,” said the Finance Minister, adding “I want to thank, on behalf of the government, Prime Minister (Mia) Mottley and her team in Barbados for making the necessary arrangements tonight to fly the Honourable Prime Minister to Barbados to receive that MRI. That is the seriousness we are talking about today,” he said.
Earlier, a government statement had indicated that Gonsalves, 74, would remain in hospital here overnight night after he was struck with an object during protest that had been organised by the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) and two public sector unions as their supporters took to the streets to condemn proposed changes to the Public Health Act.
The government has said the amendment to the legislation would allow for the vaccination of public sector workers, considered to be front line workers and it is proposing to remove the word “voluntary” from a section of the law that speaks to vaccination against an illness that has triggered the declaration of a public health emergency — as is the case with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In a statement, the Office of the Prime Minister said that Gonsalves had informed his colleagues that his is recovering, and reaffirmed that “no lawless mob will prevent him from doing the people’s business in the seat of our democracy.”
The statement said that Gonsalves “strongly reiterated his belief in the solemnity of the vote as a cornerstone of parliamentary democracy and basis of governmental legitimacy.
“In spite of his injuries, the Prime Minister welcomed all peaceful demonstration as a fundamental right enshrined in our Constitution, but cautioned that legitimate peaceful demonstration should in no way impede parliamentarians’ rights of entrance and egress from the House of Assembly”.
In a brief, Friday said he, too, “condemn the act of violence today against the Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves and wish him a speedy recovery”.
In its statement, the NDP said that it strongly condemns violence in any form and condemns those responsible for the assault of Dr. Gonsalves, as well as the assault of a protester …”
It said that the protester “sustained a wound to his head when he was struck…by a police officer,” adding “we trust that perpetrators will be brought to justice”.
Francis told Parliament that people should be very careful since their every movement is recorded and posted on social media.
“There are so many people out there with phone with cameras, there is nothing you can do that get away from the public. Social media better than the police sometimes. Yes; Facebook. I not on Facebook but I’ve got a good friend who does lend me their Facebook page and they do report to me,” Francis said, adding that he has never posted anything on social media in his life. “I don’t even know how to post. But ah read every single post.”