EDITOR: In 2000 Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and the ULP took credit for orchestrating a protest that included the Public Service Union, Nurses Association, Teachers Union and civil society organizations. During this protest the roads were blocked, by people, debris, old vehicles and other items. Children were prevented from attending schools and participating in CXC exams, ambulances on emergency duties were prevented from passing resulting on one occasion of a baby being born in a vehicle. One female lawyer lay in the road preventing vehicles from passing and one person even went on the tarmac at the ET Joshua Airport to prevent a plane carrying CARICOM officials from landing.ULP supporters wantonly and recklessly defied police instructions to clear the road.
Dr. Ralph Gonsalves celebrated this as a milestone of democracy in action annually by calling it the Road Block revolution. He speaks of this as a feather in his cap representing his ability to move and activate people.
During all of this, at no time was the riot squad called out, or state power wielded against the protesters. Obviously, the NDP Government, under Sir James Mitchell also saw it as an exercise of democratic rights. As a result of these protest actions the life of the NDP government was shortened and ULP eventually came into power.
To make a contextual point it must be recognized that in 1986 Dr. Ralph Gonsalves in an MNU Educational Pamphlet No. 9 captioned ‘Authority in the Police Force: Its use and abuse’ noted that Police Commissioners were known “to restrict the rights of citizens, particularly political dissenters, to hold meetings and stage marches and processions on the grounds which … [were]… unreasonable, or without reasonable merit.” He however admitted that under the NDP no such abuse had happened and no attempt had been made to do such.” In fact, under the Labor Party, which Dr. Gonsalves’ party the MNU merged with, had charged Renrick Rose for having seditious material and it was the NDP which dropped all charges against Rose. At the time Renrick Rose was a strident opposition voice against the NDP.
Dr. Gonsalves in his conclusion cautioned that as long as illiberal laws existed, and as long as the police force remains manipulable by political interest a danger existed of “citizen’s fundamental rights being subverted by the abuse of the Police Force’s authority.”
It does appear that Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is someone who stands for and supports an idea once it fits into his needs at the time and will oppose that very same idea once it is no longer of use to him. Over the years this intellectual duplicity has become acutely obvious.
On 5th September 2021, the NDP in support of the Trade Unions mounted a protest in Kingstown citing several issues including mandatory vaccination, selective application of justice and the erosion of democratic rights. During the Protest Dr Ralph Gonsalves was injured. In a whole sale response to what was eventually described medically as a scratch, the Public Order Act was revived, and several persons were arrested and charged for organizing and participating in a protest, without the permission of the Commissioner of Police.
Note that in 1986 Dr. Gonsalves described protest as a “fundamental right.” Recently, in support of the enforcement of the Public Order Act, Dr. Gonsalves published a treatise captioned “A Parliamentarian’s right to unhindered access to the House of Assembly” highlighting offences under the Public Order Act and “Other applicable statutes.”
There is a sharp contradiction with the position of Dr. Ralph Gonsalves in 1986 and 2000 as opposed to 2021.
Firstly, Dr. Gonsalves was in Opposition and saw protest as a path to power and supported anything that served that purpose. During what he described glowingly as the Road Block Revolution, ULP protesters invaded the Parliament yard unhindered, in fact what was described as an atrocious act of violence occurred against Governor General, the late Sir Charles Antrobus, when the vehicle in which he was travelling was violently shaken by an angry mob when he was leaving Parliament. Reportedly Sir [Charles] Antrobus was never the same after that assault. Look today at the reaction of the police under Dr. Gonsalves’ government. Can one conclude that presently the police force is manipulable by political interest as the fundamental democratic rights of citizens are subverted? You be the judge.
Today, SVG has taken several backward steps and the ULP government under Dr. Gonsalves, a self-proclaimed freedom fighter and lover of the people, has repositioned themselves in colonial garb as now they have set themselves up as a force restricting citizen’s rights and threatening their fundamental rights and freedoms. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and the ULP had over twenty years as overlords of SVG and have come to see Vincentians as serfs. It is time for this undeclared state of emergency to come to an end. It is said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely but power in my opinion tends to bring out one’s true self, and in this instance it would appear that power has exposed Dr. Gonsalves’ intellectual duplicity.