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A Nation at War with Itself

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This week was another hell of a week when our nation was at war with itself. The acquittal of the two persons involved in the Cornelius John case, which, given the personalities involved, most seemed to have expected, and the arrival of the date for the implementation of the vaccine mandate drew anger from sections of the Vincentian community. It has increased the distrust which has been growing about the state and nature of the Justice system. The issue of the vaccine mandate runs deep. It involves public servants/frontline workers and even it appears now, street cleaners. This, unfortunately, has created distrust for some workers who are trapped in the system and are simply doing their jobs. Ironically and perhaps unfortunately the only thing that suggested some harmony in the country was the death of former prime minister, Sir James ‘Son’ Mitchell. I have seen even some of his biggest critics now singing his praises for the contribution he had made to nation building. Listening to some callers paying tribute on radio one thing which seemed very common was their reference to him as a decent man. This is significant and probably means more than appears on the surface. This is a matter I will take up again.

     The Cornelius John affair is a sad one. I have not followed the details of this as closely as I wanted, noting too, that the Courts had ordered a blackout of news until the case was completed.  Not only is it obvious to most persons that he was not given proper justice but to my lay mind something sinister appears to lie behind it all, given the manner in which the matter was investigated and the failure of key persons to be called to give evidence. We would remember that the incident happened about a week or two before we heard anything from the police or in fact anything at all. There were problems with John getting his medical report from the hospital and a lot of inadequacies in how the matter was investigated.

     John was shot in his leg and the evidence was there to see. Yet, the case is finished, and no one was charged for this. It is as if some phantom appeared out of nowhere and did the job! Disgraceful indeed! The nation should be embarrassed about how this matter was played out. One important aspect of the John case is that it crossed political boundaries. When persons started demonstrating, calling for justice for John, few appeared to have known his political views or leanings. It turned out eventually from his own mouth that he had been a long time supporter of the Prime Minister and his government. His was a case that told us what this nation was about for the persons accused in his case were a senator and deputy speaker of the House of Assembly and the deputy director of public prosecution.

     Comments to I Witness News by John said a lot: “I had expected that, seeing the type of people , the work they hold, the position they hold.” He went on to say “This case is not about me and me alone. It is about the nation, where God is speaking about injustice in the nation and he himself is going to deal with it.” Fortunately, John’s religious beliefs have brought some comfort to him and allows him to rationalise the situation. To lay people like me many questions and concerns remain. How could people enter his home/yard and left with John being wounded, had a bullet in his leg, had to be taken to the hospital, and still be treated simply as someone who had threatened one of the persons who entered his yard/home, and not as the victim of a gunshot? Why had the police not been involved from the beginning?  Was this vigilante justice and does this set a pattern especially with the growing distrust of the Justice system? Our country needs healing! There is indeed a sickness that goes beyond COVID-19!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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