OECS appeals for calm in Martinique, Guadeloupe
The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has appealed for calm and “reasoned dialogue” in the French-dependent territories of Martinique and Guadeloupe, where people have been protesting the mandatory vaccination against COVID-19.
In a statement, Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who is also the chairman of the nine-member sub-regional grouping, said: “We have all experienced the devastating impact of the pandemic and all of our governments have had to make difficult choices to protect lives and preserve livelihoods.
“In the face of these challenges, we urge national dialogue that starts from the basic principle that we are all at-risk and that the enemy is the virus and not each other.
“Violence and arson offer no solution to the increasing threat to our common existence. We would like to believe that those opposed to vaccination do not subscribe to this behaviour and disassociate their advocacy from these counterproductive action,” Mitchell added.
Martinique became an associate member of the OECS on April 12, 2016, becoming the first non-British or formerly British territory to join the grouping that brings together Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin islands.
Guadeloupe acceded as an associate member of the OECS on March 14, 2019.
Meanwhile, protesters looted shops and set up burning barricades overnight in Martinique, as unrest about the coronavirus restrictions intensified.
Video published showed protesters targetting a shopping centre and running away with goods, as well as videos of demonstrators setting up burning barricades on roads.
During the past week in Martinique and neighbouring Guadeloupe, demonstrations have been taking place in protest against mandatory vaccination rules for health workers, a requirement also in place in mainland France.
The authorities said that they had taken control of several petrol stations due to concerns about fuel supplies.
On Thursday, the leaders of 17 trade-union organisations that launched a general strike in Martinique were meeting with local authorities in an attempt to reach a solution.
In addition to ending the vaccination obligation, protesters have been calling for salary increases and lower petrol prices.