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July 25, 2014
Partisan political division allowed to fester – Bishop

What took place at the funeral service for Elwardo Lynch is a symptom of the partisan political division which we have allowed to fester in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Bishop of the Windward Islands, the Right Reverend C Leopold Friday, expressed this view on Wednesday, in a circular entitled, “Reflections on what took place at E.G. Lynch’s Funeral on Saturday 19th July, 2014 at the Holy Trinity Parish Church, Georgetown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”{{more}}

Friday also called on all Vincentians to be honest with themselves and acknowledge how they have contributed to the present situation.

The circular, addressed to “Clergy and People”, which the bishop shared with the media, said as Christians, “we cannot uphold that which promotes division, unruliness, indiscipline or ‘worst behaviour’.”

Bishop Friday acknowledged that there is much discussion on if Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves should have attended and sought to deliver a tribute at the funeral service; whether the Reverend Father Ulric C Jones should have exercised his authority as the priest officiating at the funeral service to regain and maintain order and whether Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace should have made an appeal to those present to refrain from disrupting the funeral service.

Except to say that these three points “have value and importance and provide for a healthy debate and we can draw our own conclusions,” the bishop did not himself offer an opinion.

Friday said he believes that what took place at the funeral is “a symptom, a manifestation of something underneath the surface. A revelation of the deep, infected and malignant sore of partisan political division which we have allowed to fester in this nation along with ‘unruly’, ‘indiscipline’ and ‘worst behaviour’ attitudes and characteristics.”

He, however, said now is not the time to cast blame or point the finger, but what happened could be a catalyst for reconciliation and restoration in this nation; a process in which everyone, including members of Parliament, the church, civil and private sector leaders, the media and NGOs should participate.

“The aim is not to pamper the sore but to seek the maturity and commitment to collectively apply the necessary surgical and corrective measures to bring about reconciliation and restoration. Most important, the first thing to be done is for us all to be honest with ourselves and do some introspection and acknowledge how we have contributed directly or indirectly to the present situation.

“I believe that there are persons in our society who are equipped to assist in putting together the necessary programmes, structures, methods and strategies to carry out this work. By the grace of God this is not beyond our capacity. I appeal to the relevant authorities to initiate the process,” Friday said.

Elwardo Lynch was, for over 10 years, the host of the New Democratic Party’s New Times radio programme.

At his funeral on Saturday, pandemonium broke out on arrival in church of Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and also when he attempted to deliver a tribute to Lynch. Two of Lynch’s children pleaded with the congregation to settle, but the booing and heckling continued unabated. There were also reports of profanity being used by some of the protestors.

President of the NDP Arnhim Eustace and the priest officiating at the funeral service, Reverend Ulric Jones have come in for heavy criticism from some, for not condemning the behaviour and making an effort to bring calm to the situation.

Lynch was, in the 1980’s, a member of Gonsalves’ Movement for National Unity, but over the last 10 years when he hosted the New Times programme, he and Gonsalves had an adversarial relationship, with Gonsalves successfully suing Lynch for defamation for a comment Lynch made in 2002.

Some supporters of the NDP have claimed that the pressure brought to bear on Lynch by the Prime Minister contributed to his ill health, and it was hypocritical of Gonsalves to attend the funeral and attempt to deliver a tribute, even though he was invited to do so by Lynch’s children. Gonsalves said despite their battles, Lynch was his friend and during his illness, he had visited Lynch at the hospital and at the nursing home, where he died.

The Holy Trinity Parish Church at Georgetown, where the funeral service was held, is part of the Anglican Diocese of the Windward Islands of which Friday is bishop.