There are three “tests” which the Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday fail to take or pass after the protest in Kingstown last Thursday turned violent, resulting in an injury to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.
“When he became first aware of that what transpired, he should have gone to the crowd, small crowd as it is, of 200 people or under and say, ‘This matter has gotten out of hand. This protest is at an end. Go home. I do not tolerate this kind of violence’,” the prime minister said on WE FM on Sunday, his 75th birthday.
“Even though it might have been nothing but an opportunistic, holier-than-thou bit of hypocrisy since he had been involved in riling people, riling them up,” Gonsalves said.
“But that’s at least the first test which was before him. He meet it; he didn’t pass it.”
The prime minister said that the “second test is that the first opportunity in the House to have denounced what happened unequivocally in specific terms with absolutely no ambiguity or equivocation, instead, his first response is that what happened was regrettable.
“In other words, my bloodshed was regrettable. And having done those first two things and he failed to take those tests, he should have then called Eloise [my wife] and requested permission to come at the bedside of Ralph at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.
“That also he failed to meet. When I was in the recovery room, [former prime minister and NDP founder] Sir James Mitchell called on FaceTime, you know, and we had a long conversation.”
The protest was organised by the opposition New Democratic Party, the Teachers’ Union, the Public Service Union, the Nurses Association, and RISE Hairouna, in demonstration of objections to changes to the Public Health Act, which were later passed into law around 3 a.m. Friday.
The prime minister was asked if he would attach any culpability to the other entities that were “purportedly in the protest: the Teachers’ Union, the PSU, Nurses Association, the van drivers”.
“A few van drivers there don’t represent van drivers. And insofar as the leadership of the Teachers’ Union and The Public Service, their conduct was wholly reprehensible.
“They tried to piggyback on a political demonstration, which has, which from the beginning has only one purpose, from [Senator] Ashelle [Morgan] all the way, get rid of Ralph and the government.”
The prime minister said that he had read the comments of the union leaders at a press conference two days before the protest.
“And I can tell you, their representation at the press conference, entirely dishonest, and did not speak the truth as to what the bills were before the house. And the lawyers who presented themselves at that press conference were more guided by politics than by law. That is my settled view and I can demonstrate that.”
PSU and Teachers’ Union legal counsel Jomo Thomas and Zita Barnwell as well as Israel Bruce, lawyer for the Police Welfare Association attended and spoke at the press conference.
Bruce is also an opposition senator.