(CMC) — The chairman of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Friday condemned the “physical assault” on St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, and lamented the “introduction of violence into the political life of Caricom”.
Gonsalves, 74, was flown to Barbados for further medical treatment after he was struck on the head on Thursday, during a demonstration organised by the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) and two public sector trade unions against amendments to the Public Health Act.
The bill was passed during the early hours of Friday morning in the Parliament with the government having indicated that the amendment to the legislation would allow for the vaccination of public sector workers, considered to be front line workers.
The amendment allows for the removal of 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.
A senior government minister during the debate early Friday morning, told legislators that an unidentified woman has been detained by the police, while Gonsalves’ son, Camillo, who is the finance minister, said “I want to say that clearly. This is not some scratch. This was an attempt on the prime minister”.
In his statement, Browne said that “as chair of the Caribbean Community, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda and in my own capacity, I condemn the physical assault upon the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves during a protest organised by the opposition political party.
“The assault was serious and almost fatal. As it is, Dr Gonsalves’ injury to his head is still being medically assessed. The introduction of violence into the political life of Caricom is shameful and deplorable and those responsible for it must be brought to justice with all due dispatch,” Browne said.
He said that the assault is all the more “shameful because it occurred as the prime minister was walking into the national parliament, the highest law making body of the State where a robust debate was taking place in full regard for democratic principles of dissent and discussion”.
“There is no place for violence and personal physical assaults in our Caricom democracies where the rule of law prevails and rights, including the right to peaceful protests are fully upheld,” Browne said, adding that “all law abiding and well thinking people of Caricom should join in resolution that such gratuitous violence will not be tolerated in our peaceful societies.
“Our prayers are with Dr Gonsalves for a speedy recovery. He has been and remains an invaluable Caribbean son and leader, deserving of the greatest respect,” Browne said.
Meanwhile, Antigua and Barbuda Ambassador to the United States, Sir Ronald Sanders said the “physical assault on…Gonsalves, at an opposition organised anti vaccine protest, narrowly escaped being fatal”.
“This development in Caribbean politics is reprehensible. We should all strongly condemn it,” he added.