A video went viral on social media over the weekend where supporters of the two major political parties clashed in Red Bank Village, Stann Creek District. The video placed on display several infractions on the Covid-19 regulations including the absence of social distancing and mask-wearing. Police Commissioner Chester Williams weighed in on the situation.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “When I saw the video footage of that incident in Red Bank it is very much concerning and disturbing at the same time for the simple fact that I took the time to write a press release that was sent out in respect to how we expect political campaigns are going to be conducted and despite that we’re still seeing that political parties are still of the view that it can be business as usual. When I saw that there were a number of vehicles in a motorcade and these vehicles for the most part were overcrowded and those persons in the vehicles were not wearing any mask for the most part and when they arrived at a certain location I saw that the motorcade came to a halt and some people alighted some of the vehicles and went to a yard where some other persons were and there was a scuffle and shots were fired–when I saw it I immediately contact the officer in charge of Independence Mr.Zuniga and directed that all those persons who are visible in the video committing a breach of the law whether it’s the quarantine regulations or the Fire Arms Act or the Summary Jurisdiction Offences Act that they must be brought into custody and they must be arrested and charged. We have to send a message loud and clear. We are in a pandemic, there are laws that govern the conduct of people and we must abide by those laws to keep our people safe. When we have people who are behaving recklessly and putting the lives of others at risk then we must take appropriate action to let them get the message. So that is all I’ll have to say for now and by the end of the day today you will know who all have been charged.”
The media also questioned the Police Commissioner on the police officer and the Special Constable who were present at the scene. Commissioner Williams says that is part of the investigation but there has to be a balance.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “I have spoken to Mr.Zuniga in respect of that and he is saying that the off duty officer was not in the motorcade but rather he was behind when he saw what took place and he acted. Well I want to be convinced of that because from my observation even when the motorcade took off the vehicle in which the off duty police man was in went behind the motorcade so I have tasked Ms.Zuniga to appoint an independent investigator separate from the officer who was there to investigate the matter so that we can get to the bottom of exactly what transpired out there. He is saying yes he’s not disputing that he fired shots and we have to at the end of the day be reasonable because when prior to the shots being fired we saw machetes being wielded and he is saying it was because of the machetes being wielded that he had to fire shots to disrupt what was about to happen so we have to be fair and look at what actually transpired objectively. What would have happened had he not done so maybe we’d be dealing with some fatalities so we have to be fair where that is concerned.”
Weighing in on the matter was the UDP Party Leader, Patrick Faber who asserted that the UDP supporters were actually baited by the opposition which led to the residents resorting to machetes and other arms.
Hon. Patrick Faber, Leader, United Democratic Party: As I am told, yesterday in Red Bank Village a group of our campaigners they were agitated, they were baited by members of the opposition and supporters of the opposition interfering with flags and posters that were on a vehicle and of course that caused some problems that ended up in a police officer firing two warning shots after machetes’ came out from some of these folks who were of course harassing our supporters. Now we don’t want to get into the kind of back and forth that that kind of situation can bring so I will ask all our supporters, we know it is a very very critical time politically and we know that of course the UDP is incumbent and we will be baited on many occasions. Of course our position of them not stoning empty mango tree very very prevalent, it’s very much at the forefront. The UDP is the target for many and so I appeal to our supporters not to be baited by the opposition or anybody else and please let us conduct our activities in the UDP. My appeal is also for the wider country for us to conduct these electoral activities as peacefully as we possibly can.”
Police is yet to report on how many persons have since been arrested in this incident.