St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves is due to fly to Barbados for a head scan after being injured during protests in his country’s capital earlier in the day, as supporters of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) and two public sector unions demonstrated outside Parliament to condemn proposed changes to the Public Health Act.
His son, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves, announced in Parliament late Thursday that his father would be flown here for an MRI to determine the extent of his injuries.
In an earlier statement, the Office of the Prime Minister said that Gonsalves, 74, was recuperating locally under the care of hospital staff.
“He will remain at the hospital overnight for observation. He has informed his colleagues that he 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.
Providing details about the incident, the statement said Gonsalves “was physically assaulted and wounded by Opposition demonstrators while attempting to enter the House of Assembly”.
Protestors had gathered in opposition to the amendment to the legislation that would allow for the vaccination of public sector workers, considered to be front line workers. The government 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 COVID-19 pandemic.
“Approximately 200 demonstrators, responding to a call to action from the Leader of the Opposition, picketed the Parliament and blocked the entrance to building.
“When the crowd prevented the vehicle carrying the Honourable Prime Minister from driving through the gate of the Parliament, he alighted the vehicle and attempted to enter on foot. An Opposition demonstrator then hurled a projectile at the Prime Minister, which struck him in the head, inches above the temple,” the statement said.
It added that Gonsalves was bleeding profusely and taken to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital by his security detail, where he was met by his wife.
According to the statement, “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.
“Moreover, the use of violence in pursuit of political purposes is entirely unacceptable. We expect that the perpetrator of the actual act of violence will be brought to justice,” the statement continued, adding “such an act is to be unequivocally condemned”.
“Equally to be condemned are the instigators and back-room authors of this kind of violence,” it noted.
Some protesters had celebrated the Prime Minister’s injury, beating drums and chanting, “The World Boss head buss!”
But in a brief statement, the Leader of the Opposition and NDP president Dr Godwin Friday said he also condemned the act of violence against the Prime Minister and wished him a speedy recovery.
The opposition party said it strongly condemned violence in any form and those responsible for the assault of Gonsalves.
It noted that a protestor was also assaulted. He said the individual “sustained a wound to his head when he was struck…by a police officer”
“We trust that perpetrators will be brought to justice,” he said.
Late Thursday, the Prime Minister’s son urged his father’s attacker to turn himself in.
“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,” he said in Parliament, noting that both the Opposition Leader and Opposition Senator Israel Bruce were both lawyers.
“I would like the assailant, with great respect, to try to put this episode behind us.”
He also urged supporters of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) to refrain from any retaliatory act. (CMC/BT)