Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves was injured outside parliament on Thursday as protesters gathered in the streets to voice their opposition to proposed changes to the Public Health Act, which could see some workers losing their jobs if they choose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19, local reports say.
The 74 year old Gonsalves was hit by an object thrown by a protester, it was reported.
“These are his bloodstains on my shirt and I am telling you I am going to do what it takes to ensure there is justice in this country,” an impassioned Agriculture Minister, Saboto Caesar told parliament, while displaying spots of blood on his shirt.
A video on social media appeared to capture the aftermath of the attack on Gonsalves.
A statement issued by the office of the Vincentian PM said at approximately 5:15 p.m. Gonsalves was physically assaulted and wounded by Opposition demonstrators while attempting to enter the House of Assembly.
“Approximately 200 demonstrators, responding to a call to action from the Leader of the Opposition, picketed the Parliament and blocked the entrance to building. When the crowd prevented the vehicle carrying the Honourable Prime Minister from driving through the gate of the Parliament, he alighted the vehicle and attempted to enter on foot,” the statement said.
It asserted that an Opposition demonstrator then hurled a projectile at the Prime Minister, which struck him in the head, inches above the temple.
“The Prime Minister, bleeding profusely, was taken to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital by his security detail, where he was met by his wife. The Prime Minister is now recuperating under the care of Hospital staff. He will remain at the Hospital overnight for observation. He has informed his colleagues that his is recovering, and reaffirmed that no lawless mob will prevent him from doing the people’s business in the seat of our democracy,” according to the statement from the office of the PM.
It said despite his injuries, Gonsalves welcomed all peaceful demonstration as a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution.
But he cautioned that legitimate peaceful demonstration should in no way impede parliamentarians’ rights of entrance and egress from the House of Assembly.
“Moreover, the use of violence in pursuit of political purposes is entirely unacceptable. We expect that the perpetrator of the actual act of violence will be brought to justice,” the statement from the office of the Vincentian PM declared.
The opposition said in parliament that the injury to Gonsalves was unfortunate and regrettable and denied inciting violence.