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Jomo Thomas

Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (iWN file photo)

By *Jomo Sanga Thomas

(“Plain Talk” Aug. 13, 2021)

 “The COVID-19 pandemic has created health, social and economic crisis as well as a leadership crisis in the Caribbean. — Malaka Parker, Antiguan political leader.

“Why are you standing in the road?”

“Is our street.”

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“Why are you blocking the road?”

“So Ralph ain’t block road too?”

“Why do you want to prevent the prime minister from entering the Parliament?”

“To show him who controls the street. We want to stick it to him.”

Well, they stuck it to him, alright. Since last Thursday evening, social media have been abuzz with gleeful comments from those who took demented pleasure in seeing blood flow from Gonsalves’ head. 

The ULP leaders attempted to take the high ground. But they spoke with a forked tongue.  Out of one side of their mouth, they muttered aimlessly about morality and democracy. Out of the other side, they spewed venom, and dog-whistled their supporters. Rather than call for national unity and for calm heads to hold sway, they asked their supporters not to “seek revenge or retaliation”. Meanwhile, one of their leaders angrily threatened “if is war they want is war, they go get”.

This call to arms, coming a few weeks after St. Clair Leacock’s incendiary comment “we have taken away the word peaceful from the protest” makes one thing crystal clear: When the devil was dishing out irresponsibility, the political class in SVG took the lion share.

What a difference a silly act makes. Throughout the day, the protestors had the momentum. They were organised, energised, committed to letting their voices be heard. The ULP propaganda machine dismissively said there were 200 protestors. We can easily triple that number. The protest demonstration was beyond the usual NDP crowd. It was not as large as those in 2000, but it had the seeds of a growing movement. It was broadly representative of our society. Nurses, customs officers, prison officers and other civil servants came in their uniforms.

For the first time in two decades, citizens broke the fear barrier. They did not take to the street in throngs. Not as yet, but they came. The fear is melting. They came early, and they stayed late.

They were determined to defend the autonomy and integrity of their bodies and that of their children. They registered their opposition to the government’s plan for mandatory vaccination. The persistent drumming, as if an attempt to invoke the energy of our ancestors, added to the mood.

The initiative was with the demonstrators. The broad masses had not yet decided to join the picket line, but the demonstrators had the moral high ground. Those passing the demonstration echoed the support for the cause. Many asked why was the government hell-bent on vaccinating every man, woman and child in SVG?

And then it happened. After the lunch break, PM Gonsalves, returning to the Parliament, was irresponsibly pelted with water bottles, beer bottles, and stones. It is yet unknown what caused Gonsalves’ injury, but images of him grimacing, visibly frightened in a blood-stained white shirt changed the narrative and brought widespread expressions of sympathy for the veteran politician. 

Last Thursday began with Gonsalves painted as the villain committed to snatching basic and fundamental constitutionally protected rights of citizens. In front of all of us, Gonsalves morphed in the Caribbean Ayatollah, leading the regional governors in the mad rush to take away citizens’ rights in the effort to protect them from a deadly disease that has proven much less than deadly among Vincentians.

By the end of the day, leaders from Blize to Guyana issued statements condemning those who injured the Prime minister. CARICOM and UWI joined the sympathy parade. They all professed their faith in good governance and democratic best practices.

All in on the vaccination agenda, which is touted as the best means to protect lives and livelihood, none of them cautioned against snuffing out the constitutional glue that holds our society together.

The short-sighted, silly, politically naive among us got their thrill. They laughed and roared with sickening ecstatic joy in seeing Gonsalves’ blood run. In all this macabre display of pleasure, they failed to realise that they have retarded and harmed the people’s effort to protect their fundamental rights and make a more perfect, participatory democracy.

By Saturday, the police were turned on the people. The opposition was blamed for the PM’s injury and more than 10 of its alleged supporters were raided. The police illegally confiscated cell phones and computers. They were clearly on a fishing expedition as no one was arrested except for a 56-year-old woman who pleaded her innocence as she left the court. Their top supporters labelled Thursday’s injury an assassination attempt and high treason. Backroom operators were said to be behind the assault. A conspiracy of sorts was unfolding. No proof, just wild, irresponsible assertions.

We can anticipate an aggressive region-wide assault on peoples’ right to protest. Last Sunday, Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne ordered his security to vamp on hundreds of citizens engaging in peaceful protest. They used tear gas, rubber bullets, and wooden batons as they wantonly and aggressively dispersed the crowd.

There was not a word of condemnation from officialdom at the excessive and brutal display of force. There are clearly two sets of rules. You can beat and break the bones and run the blood of ordinary people. Touch the political and economic elite, and you will be crushed.

One thing has become crystal clear.  Regional leaders are coordinating their actions as they press on with their attempt to force citizens to take a demonstrably ineffective vaccine whose safety is in doubt. The coercive arm of the state is merging and aligning with the powerful economic interest in society to bend the people’s will and force them into submission.

The struggle continues. The people will resist. The people must resist.

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

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2 replies on “Fool’s gift, nation’s loss”

  1. I am sorry the PM was hit. I implore restraint from Vincentians on all sides.Let reason,wisdom and common sense guide all your actions. For too long we have allowed violence to become a tool to solve problems.However,the truth must be spoken and reason and truth must and will prevail.The PM has provoked the nation to an extent that things can easily get out of hand.He has to take part of the blame and responsibility for what has happened and is going on in the country.There is an african saying,”if a child sits on the ground crying with hands outstretched, that child is pleading for help.The situation may be critical and if left ignored, it may bring sorrow and regret to those who ignored that plea”.The PM ignored the plea of what had been going on in the country for a long while.For as far as I can remember.

    Ralph is the most guarded PM our country has ever had and the longest reigning one.Yet, he is the only one who has been hit by the people.It is something for his government to chew on. On my last visit to SVG, I warned some of my christian friends that, the level of violence in SVG, if continued to be ignored, would reach the doorsteps of those in power who have been ignoring it.Before I left, it had already gotten to the doorstep of one minister,whose wife was attacked right at her door. Can a prediction be more accurate than that? If the report is accurate, they said 12 died from the coivd virus but at the time I read that ,there were 24 murders in SVG for the year already. Which needs more urgent attention? which pleads for the PM attention more?

    Mr. John was shot in his own home [and a member of his government was allegedly involved but] the PM callously tried to use politics to down play and put a spin on something that should have called his attention to appropriately address.It is the culture of the government why something like what happened to John can take place. Something is going on that emboldens injustice and open violence of the sorts that have been happening in our beloved country. The reports that are out there are clear .There is no need to mandate vaccine in SVG. Unless there is some hidden agenda and ulterior motives spurring such lack of reasonable discretion. The PM and the health establishment failed to show clearly why such vaccine mandate is urgently needed. The SVG stats on the virus that I have read shows the PM’s heavy handed approach is not needed. HE IS PROVOKING THE NATION. Either he has not done his due diligence or he is been influenced by something or someone that is not working in the best interest of the people. I called on all parties to listen carefully, do your due diligence and hear and address the crying pleas of our beloved nation. In the name of God and common sense, I implore the government and people to listen and reason with each other to find the best solutions to save and help our people.

  2. Avatar Of Urlan Alexanderurlan Alexander says:

    As usual Jomo you have a found away to hide Ralph from the irresponsible action he took that lead
    to his buss head.

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