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Nomination Day begins with hugs, ends with violence

Nomination Day begins with hugs, ends with violence

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by Lyf Compton

Hours after two politicians from opposing parties hugged one another in a show of peace, supporters of the New Democratic Party (NDP) marching through the South Leeward community of Rillan Hill were pelted with rocks and other debris.

Gunshots were also fired during the incident that took place on Nomination Day, Tuesday October 20, at around 8 pm.

But earlier that day, Benjamin Exeter and Orando Bruce, candidates for the NDP and the Unity Labour Party (ULP) respectively, hugged each other just outside the Layou Police Station where they had gone to file their nomination papers for the Central Leeward constituency.

The violence at Rillan Hill occurred during a NDP-organized “jump up” and march from Campden Park to Retreat, Vermont, where a rally was held.

While some persons claim that police officers are ones who fired the shots, others claim the shots were fired by the same persons who threw the rocks.

A police source said officers at the Questelles Police Station received calls about the “six shots” and arrived after the explosions.  

No one seems to have been hit or injured by the rocks or gunshots, but one witness said that during the assault, persons began running in every direction and that resulted in at least one person falling and getting hurt.

“I was here so…” Rillan Hill resident Kashare Jackson told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday while pointing to a spot at the side of the road.

“…I see they start to firing bottle from up by the road side, up above the trees,” she said.

“Me run down in me house,” Jackson told SEARCHLIGHT while stressing that the missiles came from the “top street” but she has no idea who threw them.

“…and I hear the gunshots them start fire off from up above that green building dey,” the young lady said, while noting that persons should not have pelted on the crowd.

Another resident who preferred to remain anonymous said she was inside her house when she heard the commotion and came out and saw persons running.

She said she realized that the crowd was being “stoned” and while she is a supporter of the ULP and the crowd was an NDP gathering, she is not in support of what happened.

“Another big ULP woman said the same thing. They should just leave the people,” she said.

However, another resident, who also preferred not to give her name, is claiming that NDP supporters from the area started the melee in an effort to make it seem as if it was started by supporters of the ULP.

“Man is NDP people start pelt fuh spite,” she said while refusing to go further unless the reporter asking the questions told her what party he was supporting.

Police are investigating.

While SEARCHLIGHT was on the scene, the NDP’s South Leeward candidate Nigel “Nature” Stephenson pulled up in his vehicle but refused to comment on the incident. The ULP’s Mineva Glasgow when asked to comment on Wednesday said she did not have all the facts but she condemns incidents of this nature.

South Leeward independent candidate Asordo Bennett said he was at home looking at the march when he saw people scattering. He too also condemned the senseless attack.

The attack caused several politicians, including political leader of the ULP Dr Ralph Gonsalves, and president of the NDP Dr Godwin Friday to issue statements condemning election violence.

Tuesday’s incident came a few days after Gonsalves said he had filed informal and formal complaints with the St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Christian Council.

The formal complaint, which went to head of that body Monsignor Michael “Father Mike” Stewart, was in relation to the pulling down of a ULP billboard in Campden Park on Wednesday October 14. The informal complaint was about comments made by NDP’s candidate in Central Kingstown St Clair Leacock who had said that Gonsalves should not set foot in Redemption Sharpes, a community in Central Kingstown.

Days after the complaints, a ULP billboard in North Windward was pulled down, while there are unconfirmed reports that a supporter of the NDP was struck in the face at Sion Hill when someone threw something from a moving vehicle.

The Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) said in a release on Wednesday that it has received reports of several acts of violence, damage to property, defacing of buildings and roads. These incidents include the pulling down of a bill board and posters in Campden Park and other areas; throwing of missiles/stones and firing of gunshots at Rillan Hill.

The RSVGPF called on all Vincentians to “cease and desist” from all acts of violence and/or intimidation during this period of political campaigning.

“In addition, all political parties are strongly advised to adhere to the ‘spirit’ and ‘letter’ of the Code of Ethical and Political Conduct for the 2020 General Elections that was issued by the National Monitoring and Consultative Mechanism (NMCM) and signed by the two major political parties.

“The RSVGPF also calls on the leadership of all political parties to apply to the Office of the Commissioner of Police for permission in relation to the holding of political rallies/meetings/whistle-stops, Limes in a timely manner, so that the necessary security arrangements can be put in place to safeguard members of the public,” the release from the police said.

Over the years, elections in SVG have generally been peaceful, but two incidents stand out.

A missile thrown at Villa during a motorcade of the NDP during the general elections of 1994 claimed the life of Paul’s Avenue resident, 19-year-old Elizabeth Keane, leaving a one-year-old child motherless. On that same day, February 21, 1994, Dauphine resident Charmaine Bailey lost an eye when a missile was thrown at the truck she was riding on, while at Casson Hill on her way back from an NDP rally at Georgetown.

In December 2010, a 60-year-old Justice of the Peace was remanded in custody in connection with the shooting of two men at a ULP political meeting at Chauncey. One man said he was driving through a ULP crowd on his scooter in Chauncey when he was attacked. He said that the motorbike had two NDP stickers on it. The other man said he was shot while standing on the side of the road.

The case against the Justice of Peace was later dismissed.