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Violence in our politics must never be tolerated

Violence in our politics must never be tolerated

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LAST THURSDAY, all Vincentians should have been horrified at the image of the Prime Minister with his shirt soaking with blood because of the stone that crashed into his skull. Police have charged someone with this dastardly deed, and yesterday, the alleged attacker was taken to court and given bail. When the matter is tried, she will be defended by two prominent attorneys. Whatever the outcome, her trial would vindicate the highest principle of Vincentian civilization: we live under the umbrella of the Rule of Law.

The mob violence directed against the Prime Minister on the streets of Kingstown is precisely the opposite of this hallowed political and legal universe that we inhabit. Such violence is a loaded gun to the head of our democracy. If we were to normalize the violence visited upon our Prime Minister as the way in which we resolve political differences, our democracy is dead. For force always gives way to greater force and our government would no longer rest upon the consent of the governed but simply by which person or party could leverage greater violence in the pursuit of their political ends.

It is therefore incumbent upon all parties and persons in St Vincent and the Grenadines to condemn in the strongest possible terms the vile assault against the Prime Minister. For whereas from the perspective of the alleged perpetrator, a stone was thrown against the person of the Prime Minister, from the perspective of the practice of Vincentian politics, that stone leads to the very road that we dare not walk in our Vincentian political culture: the dominance of mob violence.

Condemnation, however, must be more than words. It must manifest itself in codes of conduct that celebrate debating our differences in every forum. It must express itself in an opposition party and a ruling party engaging on the floors of the Parliament in vigorous debates that centre the Parliament as the most powerful symbol of a maturing democracy. And above all, it needs the losing parties in our elections to accept that general elections are the means through which we constitute legitimate governments. Words are fine. But they must be backed by action.

In fact, some Vincentians are actually justifying the violence committed against the Prime Minister. Their fundamental position is this: since they have failed to defeat Dr Ralph Gonsalves in court, in Parliament, in public opinion, or at the ballot box on any of the myriad complaints they have hurled against him, these failures justify this barbaric assault against his person. Indeed, the most mind-bending aspect of this argument is that it is a complete rejection of the very system that they would like to lead. Unless the institutions of governance can guarantee them the outcomes they desire, they would choose to burn them all. At this point reason fails as a tool of governance. Might is right. Anarchy prevails. The disciples of chaos and destruction cannot be allowed to write our future. We cannot support peaceful protest at some point and when it is inconvenient for us, shelve it. Because in doing so we would have exposed ourselves as hypocrites, opportunists, and not unwaveringly loyal to the ways of peace.

The duty of every Vincentian politician is to honour our constitution. To take any other position is to abandon the oath to the Constitution. The preservation of the Constitution of St Vincent and the Grenadines is also the obligation of every Vincentian. And it begins with a complete rejection of all forms of violence in the political arena. In time the injury to the Prime Minister will heal.

And so too must the injury visited upon the nation. Our position is abundantly clear: violence in Vincentian politics must never be tolerated.