SVG PM injured during massive vaccine protest

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The Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph E. Gonsalves, was seriously injured Thursday in what has been described as a massive protest in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital, against proposed changes to the law on public health.

Preliminary reports say the Vincentian leader, 74, was hit in the head by an object thrown by a protester, who was among those protesting against the proposed changes to the law.

According to the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), the amendments would remove the word “voluntary” from a section of the law that refers to vaccination against a disease that triggers the declaration of a public health emergency, such as COVID-19 .

The Public Information Agency (API), within the Prime Minister’s office, said in a statement Thursday that around “200 protesters, responding to a call to action from the opposition leader, have picketed in front of the parliament and blocked the entrance to the building. .

“When the crowd prevented the vehicle carrying the Prime Minister from passing through the door of the parliament, he got out of the vehicle and tried to enter on foot,” the statement said. “An opposition protester then threw a projectile at the Prime Minister, who hit him in the head, a few inches above the temple.

API said Gonsalves, bleeding profusely, was taken to Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in Kingstown by his security service, where he was greeted by his wife.

“The Prime Minister is now recovering thanks to the care of hospital staff,” the statement said. “He will stay in the hospital overnight for observation. He informed his colleagues that he was recovering and reaffirmed that no faithless crowd will prevent him from doing the business of the people at the seat of our democracy.

“In addition, the Prime Minister strongly reaffirmed his conviction that the solemnity of the vote is the cornerstone of parliamentary democracy and the basis of government legitimacy,” he added. “Despite his injuries, the Prime Minister hailed any peaceful demonstration as a fundamental right enshrined in our Constitution, but warned that a legitimate peaceful demonstration should in no way interfere with the entry and exit rights of parliamentarians of the Assembly.

“In addition, the use of violence for political ends is completely unacceptable,” the statement continued. “We expect the perpetrator of the actual act of violence to be brought to justice. Such an act must be unequivocally condemned. The instigators and behind the scenes perpetrators of this type of violence are also condemned. “

API later said Gonsalves was rushed to Barbados on Thursday evening for an MRI, “thanks to the government of Barbados.”

API said the information was based on an announcement in parliament by Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves, the prime minister’s eldest son.

CMC said Gonsalves was on his way back to parliament, where the amendments were to be debated, when the incident occurred.

Videos circulating on social media show blood on the right side of the prime minister’s head as he was expelled from the region.

“Shouts of ‘shield, shield’ could be heard as Prime Minister Gonsalves was covered by security forces after being shot,” CMC said.

He said the Vincentian government also planned to make vaccines mandatory for certain categories of public sector employees in order to work in “front line” jobs.

“Given the extent of the misrepresentation and misinformation some people have about this bill, it is necessary and desirable to set the record straight,” Gonsalves said last week, citing CMC, adding that the legislation “does not imply any legal sanction or punishment”. on anyone who fails and / or refuses to be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19.

“The choice to work or not to work in a particular job which requires vaccination in the interest of public health will be that of the employee,” Gonsalves added. “Individual rights are always required in the appropriate circumstances to be balanced by considerations of public interest, in this case the demands of public health. The relevant rules under the Public Health Law will be developed and published in due course in the Official Gazette. “

Last Thursday, the main opposition party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), staged a street protest against the government’s proposed mandatory vaccination law, the CMC said.

The unions are also reportedly opposed to the proposed changes to the public health law.

Reuters news agency reported on Thursday that the tourism industry in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and that some 15,000 people had been displaced after the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano. in April after decades of inactivity.

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