It was with a great deal of consternation that we heard, by way of the Minister of Information during yesterday morning’s Cabinet briefing, that a number of threats have been made on the Minister himself, and a number of others in the administration. We here at NEWSCO unequivocally denounce those who are making those threats, and call on them to immediately cease and desist. The suggestion that violence could befall a member of government, no matter how indefensible and odious his performance may be, has no place in our political life. Our Constitution provides for a peaceful change of government by way of the ballot rather than the bullet. We subscribe to it.
In recent times here in the Caribbean, we have witnessed how threats to the person of a politician can result in dastardly action. In Haiti, on the morning of July 7th, President Jovenel Moise was killed by a team of assassins, throwing the country into further social and political turmoil. And just last week, a disgruntled Vincentian allegedly threw a rather large rock to the head of St. Vincent’s Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves. He survived the blow, but clearly, all’s not well in Vincie. Of course, we certainly trust that these two outrageous acts of violence do not a trend make here in our region.
As you can imagine, there are the cynical among us who question the claims by those in high places that threats of physical harm have been made against them. They see the talk of threats as distractions, red herrings, if you will, designed to lead the people away from their many failures and shortcomings. Some see the talk of threats as a weak and pathetic attempt to somehow garner sympathy, and paint the forces of opposition in a bad light. They place no credence on any of that talk.
And they could be on to something. We have seen it, time and again, where embattled politicians who have worn out their welcome with the masses, suddenly produce ‘evidence’ of plots against their lives, and that of their families, and the government. They talk about uncovering a diabolical conspiracy to destabilize the nation, and all of that sort of high political intrigue. And in a last gasp of sorts, they enact draconian measures to stifle the voices of dissent, whilst at the same time engendering pockets of sympathy. Yes, they declare states of emergencies and invoke communist bogies. It’s an old political trick. They call it “the defense of the realm,” and in many cases, it prolongs their lease, however tenuous, on political life.
In the Columbo detective television series that aired on NBC and ABC in the seventies and eighties, many men in high places with something nefarious to hide, would suddenly concoct fanciful stories about threats to themselves and their families, and it was all a ploy to garner support and throw the good detective off their trail. Columbo was never impressed by the phony dossiers and the fake evidence that they often provided to him, all in an attempt to send him down a rabbit hole. Similarly, many Antiguans and Barbudans are not impressed by the breathless stories by some in high places about plots and threats against their personas.
To be sure, as reactionary politicians see their support erode, they become increasingly paranoid. They see a monster behind every shadow; they see something sinister in everything. They know that they have not done right by their people, who are justifiably fed-up. It reminds us of Steel Pulse’s, BODYGUARD: “Every time that you meet the public / You get cold-feet and you start to panic / Who got a gun, a-who got a bomb / Who got a knife / Who’s gonna lose their life / So-called leaders with deceitful faces / Corruption in high places / Your hands full with bribes / Your mouth pour out lies / Because of all your oppression / You’re now running for protection . . .” Hmmm!
Meanwhile, more than a few Antiguans and Barbudans find it rather strange that so many credible and vicious threats have been made to so many other persons here in our fair State, and the law enforcement personnel have not responded and treated those threats with the seriousness and urgency that they deserve. Sigh!
We trust that all Antiguans and Barbudans will dial down the rhetoric and engage in the political discourse without resorting to verbal and written threats to mete out bodily harm to our elected representatives. Or to any of our brothers and sisters, for that matter. Idle and irresponsible words of violence can incite some to become political vigilantes, delivering what they perceive to be justice to feckless, no-good politicians. Power ought not to be seized at the point of a gun or the sword. After all, notwithstanding our many political and philosophical differences, in the final analysis, we ought to remain a land that is “free from a climate of fear.”
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