Gonsalves will continue to walk to Parliament
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves Wednesday said both common law and statue laws allow for a Member of Parliament to have the right of “unhindered access” to, and egress from, Parliament and its precincts.
“I for one will never allow the crazies and their fellow-travellers to hinder or impede my access to Parliament. I will walk again, as I did on August 5th, if needs be. And let the silly ones blame the victim in his exercise of his rights,” Gonsalves added.
In a statement, Gonsalves, who suffered an injury last Thursday when supporters of the New Development Party (NDP) and two public sector trade unions staged a protest outside the Parliament building against plans by his government to have front line workers vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID019) pandemic, said two pieces of legislation addressed the issue of unhindered access to Parliament by legislators.
He said the Public Order Act and the House of Assembly Privileges, Powers and Immunities Act create “criminal offences punishable by fines and imprisonment in important particulars of contemporary relevance given the unlawful wounding of the Prime Minister and other egregious examples of illegal conduct by several protesters…”
Gonsalves said the current Public Order Act first came into effect in 1951 and was subsequently amended on nine occasions, the last being in 1987 under the NDP administration.
“I have been advised that sections of the protesters were ordered to disperse on August 5, 2021, but they disobeyed. They surely did not disperse when the Prime Minister sought to exercise his lawful right to attend Parliament,” Gonsalves said in his statement.
He said the House of Assembly, Privileges, Powers and Immunities Act creates two relevant criminal offences for “strangers” who interfere with members of the House of Assembly on their privileges.
According to the legislation, a “stranger” means “any person other than a member or an officer of the House.”
Gonsalves said that under this legislation, a person is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of EC$1 500 and to imprisonment for six months.”
“There is ample video and direct, personal evidence of dozens of participants in the meeting/procession on August 5, 2021, who, prima facie, breached one or other of the provisions” of the Act, he added.
Gonsalves, who had to be flown to Barbados for medical treatment as a result of the injury suffered during the protest, said that there are several other statutory provisions which touch and concern the unlawful conduct of several protesters last Thursday outside the immediate perimeter of the Parliament building.
He said these pieces of legislation make reference to obstructing a police officer, throwing missile, disorderly conduct as well as abusive, indecent, insulting, profane or threatening language and conspiracy, attempt and assisting offenders”.
He said that the penalties may vary. (CMC)