The Government of Belize (GOB) issued a statement today to condemn anti-vax protestors’ “physical assault” on St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ prime minister on Thursday.
The release stated that the government “unequivocally condemns the physical assault on Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, that occurred yesterday outside Parliament in Kingstown.” The GOB release, while expressing respect for the democratic of right of assembly, objected to the use of violence. “We reject any attempt to introduce violence, hate and undemocratic practices into the political life of the Caribbean Community which has a proud and long history of peace, democratic traditions, and respect for the rule of law and human rights,” the government said. It likewise called for those responsible for the attack on Gonsalves to be “brought to justice”.
Gonsalves was attacked while walking through a group of anti-vaccine protesters to get to Parliament, where legislators were scheduled to debate the Public Health (Amendment) Bill. The protest was reportedly organized by the unions that represent the nurses, security personnel and others who oppose the Gonsalves’ administration new COVID-19 vaccine mandate for “frontline workers” in the island’s public service.
The Bill has its fair share of detractors, including the country’s main opposition party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), which had reportedly staged protested against the proposed law in late July. The NDP and others argue that law would make vaccination mandatory, and would, therefore, constitute a violation of workers’ rights.
The controversy surrounding the Bill motivated the government to issue a clarification statement last last month. Therein, the State wrote:
“Given the extent of the misrepresentations, and misinformation by some persons about this Bill, it is necessary and desirable to put the record straight. Emphatically, the Bill does not make mandatory or compulsory the vaccination or testing of persons in respect of COVID-19. The Bill, too, does not involve any legal penalty or punishment on anyone who fails and/or refuses to take the vaccine or test for COVID-19.”
The clarification statement went on to say that the St. Vincentian government’s intention is to make rules under the amended act to “require certain categories of employees in the public sector (central government and state enterprise) to take the vaccine in order to work in certain specified ‘frontline’ jobs.” The statement added, “The choice of working or not working in a particular job which requires vaccination in the interest of public health will be that of the employee.”