Social activist David Comissiong has dismissed suggestions of hypocrisy in defending St Vincent and the Grenadines prime minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves who was interrupted by protesters while delivering a lecture at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) last week.
Comissiong last Thursday chastised four placard-carrying women’s rights activists, among them Dr Kristina Hinds, a lecturer in political science at Cave Hill, who disrupted Gonsalves as he spoke on the topic, Helping Hands or Damaging Lands – The Effect of International Relief on CARICOM Small Island Developing States.
Chanting “justice for all”, the women held up the lecture for close to 15 minutes, prompting Comissiong to shout across the hall: “We came here to hear the prime minister, you know. Excuse me. We want to hear the prime minister, you know.”
However, Hinds insisted she would be heard, responding: “I will not be silenced. Mr Comissiong is not silenced on causes that he is concerned about . . . .This is the way we will be heard because it is the only way women are going to get heard on this issue in Barbados, in St Vincent, in any part of the world.”
This afternoon, Comissiong, who has never been shy to publicly speak on, and sometimes legally challenge, perceived social and constitutionally wrongs, told Barbados TODAY his form of activism was in stark contrast to what the protesters did on Thursday.
“I am an activist that holds press conferences, that engages with the media and the public in elucidating issues, in presenting cogent exploration of issues and even taking matters to court where those issues are well ventilated and presented so that there is engagement on the issue. How does standing up in an auditorium and simply shouting slogans such as ‘justice for women’ elucidate anything? How does that take forward any public discourse on any particular issue?” he asked.
Comissiong further argued that the women chose the wrong time and place to stage their protest, essentially stepping on their own message.
“There is a time and place for everything and the way they chose to do it and the place the chose to do the protest was totally inappropriate, was not constructive and has done nothing to advance any public understanding of the issue pertaining to women or to justice,” Comissiong said.
The protest was triggered by the prime minister’s handling of a case involving a 23-year-old former Vincentian model who was sent for psychiatric evaluation by a Kingstown magistrate following an altercation with the wife of Camillo Gonsalves, the prime minister’s son and in whose hands the Vincentian leader has placed the country’s financial affairs.
The young woman, Yugge Farrell, later claimed she had a long running extramarital affair with the younger Gonsalves.
Over the weekend Gonaslaves reportedly revealed that Principal of the UWI Cave Hill Campus Professor Eudine Barriteau had apologized to him for the incident.
This could not be immediately confirmed because attempts to reach Barriteau were unsuccessful.
However, Comissiong told Barbados TODAY he hoped upon sober reflection the women would apologize to the student body responsible for putting on the event.
“I think that the university did the right thing by offering an apology to Dr Gonsalves. I think on more sober reflection Dr Hinds and the other protestors, they too should offer an apology, not to Dr Gonsalves, but to the students. Whatever they wished to say to Dr Gonsalves is one thing but to disrupt, and in a sense hijack, an event that was very painstakingly put together by young students is to be deprecated. I hope that they come around to the view that they owe the students an apology and they would be woman enough to do it,” he stressed.