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Curb political violence in deed and word

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St Vincent and the Grenadines has a history and tradition of democracy and peaceful resolution of political battles. From time to time, notably in the 1960s, 1979, and in the election campaigns of 1994 and to a lesser extent 2010, there were violent incidents. But by and large, our elections have been peaceful affairs, spiced with all the picong and political bacchanal which characterize Caribbean politics.{{more}}

However, from time to time, incidents take place that remind us that it only takes one intoxicated, misguided, mischievous or angry person to turn an otherwise peaceful political gathering into a scene of confusion, panic, injury or even death.

With the upcoming general elections less than seven months away (based on the recent statement by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves that the elections will be held this year), it is not too early for us to appeal to our leaders to urge their supporters to desist from all acts of violence during the campaign season.

Last Saturday night, at an event held by the New Democratic Party at Richland Park, it was reported that someone was injured during a stone throwing incident. From all reports, it seems that the culprits in this case were mischievous children, who perhaps did not fully understand the danger of their actions. The incident, however, provides an opportunity for political parties to send out an early appeal to their supporters, urging them to make this election season in a peaceful one.

A joint statement by the aspirants to the highest office and a joint appeal for a peaceful campaign is not too much to ask of them. Political violence, especially against innocent civilians exercising their freedom of association, would place an indelible blot on our collective record.

The responsibility of the leaders of the respective political parties, however, does not end with them calling on their supporters to keep the peace. They must go further than that. They cannot on the one hand call for their supporters to eschew physical violence, while at the same time use inflammatory and indecent language in reference to those on the other side. On their political platforms, our politicians must guard against the tendency towards “bad-Johnism.”

We also call on our media houses, the radio stations in particular, to rein in those whose language and gross disrespect for the rights and person of others with whom they disagree can serve as incitement to those easily influenced to commit violent acts. There is no good to be gained along that road. Curb the political violence, in deed as well as in word.

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