Thursday, February 29, 2024

Solid as a rock

By Anthony Deyal

My friend Jamesy called me from St Kitts on WhatsApp. “Tony!” he said loudly with what seemed to be not just satisfaction, but pleasure so extreme that I could hear him jumping up and down with the phone in his hands. In other words, his delight knew no bounds. “Boy, you hear Mr Big Stuff was stoned in St Vincent in public?” My immediate response, based on the information I had, and my understanding of its meaning, was to point out nicely, “Well you know dey say that the stuff there in St Vincent really, really good. It even better than Grenada.

But given what I read about his pleasures and choices, I would have thought that Mr Big Stuff would not be so inclined especially in public. He might even be inclined or reclined on other things, but not grass.” “No! No!” Jamesy replied quickly. “Is a real stone that hit him. Somebody say is a woman who pelt a big stone at him and buss he head. In fact, they say she could have killed him. They had to rush him by plane to hospital in Barbados. De man was bleeding bad, real bad!” I refrained from any further comment about the man and the considerable gossip over the years about his relationships with women, deciding instead to look at the regional situation and our seeming return to the stone age.

While this was not a first for Caribbean politicians, it came a close third. Recently, the president of Haiti, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated in his own home. His security chief was arrested together with twelve police officers and eighteen Colombians (part of the mercenary team that murdered the president) and two Americans of Haitian descent. The other was in Trinidad and Tobago when, in 1990, its prime minister, A.N.R. Robinson, was shot in the leg in the nation’s parliament during a coup attempt by an Islamist radical group, the Jamaat-al-Musilmeen. Twenty-four people died including a member of parliament. Many more were injured. The Musilmeen were never made to atone and were instead allowed to take over most of the nation’s stone quarries.

While the Trinidad social media were full of the “buss-head” that the St Vincent prime minister suffered, the view that the incident took place just “a stone’s throw” away from the nation’s parliament, the “headstrong” people protesting against compulsory vaccination for COVID-19, and the way St Vincent is “heading” for disaster, the circumstances are such that it could be a preview of things to come for other Caribbean countries and the steps they are taking to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interestingly, there are also several references about political leaders who were attacked or even assassinated when they came up against the wishes of the people and what some leaders, including those in Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean countries, deserve.

In fact, my friend Jamesy was not really supportive of the action taken against the woman who supposedly threw the stone. “She might be without sin as the Bible say,” he commented. “This is a man who when they ask him for bread and he refuse, they give him a stone.” Then, before I could tell him that many of the region’s commentators were aghast at the attack on the Prime Minister, Jamesy added, “Look they tried to kill the Mali interim President in a mosque recently, last month in fact, and he said that he was doing ‘very well’ after the attack and made the point ‘That’s part of being a leader’. That is man!”

I tried to point out that there is a long history globally about assassinations and that the St Vincent prime minister, whether we like him or not and regardless of whether we call him “Mr Big Stuff” or any other name, we should not support violence against our leaders. I was adamant that if we wanted to remove a prime minister or any other politician from office, we always had the ballot. I mentioned people like John F. Kennedy, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King who were murdered.

Jamesy was adamant, “Tony, you let me down man. You comparing Mr Big Stuff with people like Gandhi and Kennedy? You look at the man history and the things that people, especially women, say that he do or didn’t do?” After telling Jamesy that I really did not agree with him and ended the conversation, I discovered that there were a lot of people, several from St Vincent in fact, who supported the position that Jamesy had taken.

However, the prime minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who suffered a concussion, was adamant that the attack could have killed him. He believes that the person who threw the object at him intended to kill him or cause him serious bodily harm. This was consistent with his party’s view that the incident was caused by reckless words and actions by political opponents. Even though they made the point that the use of violence in pursuit of political purposes is entirely unacceptable, his faction then added the condemnation of “instigators and back-room authors of this kind of violence.”

The opposition claimed that one of its protesters was attacked and injured. However, St Vincent and the Grenadines is not the only country where there are people who are against taking the vaccines or, worse, having it forced on them by making it mandatory.

Just a few days ago in England, anti-vaccine protesters tried to storm the BBC’s office – not London calling, so much as London being called upon. In France, according to EURONEWS, large and diverse crowds took to the streets over two consecutive weekends to protest the government COVID-19 vaccine policies. In Paris, anti-vaccine protests turned violent. In the US, the Los Angeles Times headlined, “California bill would limit protests at vaccination sites. Is that constitutional?” In Athens, Greece, thousands of people rallied against COVID-19 vaccinations, while in Australia, commenting on the anti-mask and anti-vaccine protests, the New South Wales police minister said, “Sydney isn’t immune from morons.” The protesters are said to have taken a jab at him with, “True. Very true.”

In that sense, St Vincent is not unique. However, what seemed to have happened is that a prime minister, whose car was blocked by angry protestors, decided that he was so loved or respected that he could walk through an angry crowd of opposition supporters to enter the parliament. I remember when, during the Black Power issue in Trinidad in 1970, the prime minister, Dr Eric Williams and Minister George Chambers walked through Port-of-Spain without any police protection despite all the threats that had been made. Sometime later, however, and just before his death, Dr Williams had to hide in an ambulance to escape some angry nurses protesting outside the parliament. Clearly, those who don’t know history like Dr Williams are condemned to repeat it.

*Tony Deyal was last seen repeating what his friend Jamesy texted, “Gonsalves government might be solid as a rock, but definitely not his head.”



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