“I will give it my all for the benefit of all our people”
By VASANT BHARATH
I have always advocated that the National interest must take precedence over personal ambition and political preference. As a result, I have never looked at matters of national importance through either a red or yellow lens.
The current crisis forces us, as never before, to take off the political gloves and work together for the benefit of ALL of our people.
History is replete with examples of leaders who have selflessly put partisan perspectives aside in favour of the National good in times of crisis.
A crucial factor in Britain’s success in World War 2 was the bipartisan War Cabinet that Prime Minister Winston Churchill put together.
The War Cabinet, described by a biographer as “a genuine coalition”, gave Churchill quality advice, reinforced his combat policies and supported his oratorical flourishes.
“Domestic political fighting was put on hold and all three parties worked together with the common aim of defeating Nazi Germany,” said the Coalition Government.
Churchill’s functioning War Cabinet represented one of the marked leadership differences with his predecessor Neville Chamberlain and was a linchpin in the famous battlefield victory.
The decorated wartime leader’s high-powered nationalistic team is a template of sorts for other global leaders during periods of crisis.
In 1982, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher reached across the parliamentary aisle in establishing an advisory team with respect to the Falklands War.
The Persian Gulf War of 1991 prompted Prime Minister John Major to bring together competent professionals with various political leanings.
During World War 2, Australian leader Robert Menzies also created a bipartisan War Cabinet, and this approach was adopted during other national crises.
In the United States, President George W. Bush appointed a politically integrated War Cabinet after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and meetings were held at Camp David.
Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country
President John F. Kennedy’s Executive Committee on National Security, set up during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, was a coalition War Cabinet of sorts.
Kennedy, considered the master of bipartisanship, publicly admitted that working with political opponents could achieve greater success for the people.
That philosophy was undoubtedly a reflection of his timeless appeal: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
At various other times in its modern history, US leaders have placed a high premium on unity, consensus and inclusiveness.
The current Covid-19 pandemic triggered Republican-Democratic Congressional accord in creating a stimulus package for workers and the business sector. The package was passed in record time.
Public surveys found that an overwhelming majority of Americans favour a united approach to confronting the medical and economic emergencies created by the unparalleled health issue.
Leaders in other countries have also shelved their political agendas for the common good of effecting solutions to the Covid-19 crisis.
There has been political consensus in Spain, Poland, Portugal and other European countries to fast-track remedies.
The European Union saluted the political “solidarity and cooperation” to “ensure we come out of this crisis stronger and wiser.”
In Germany, a political consultant said: “The default populist narrative – us versus them, insiders versus outsiders – doesn’t work anymore.”
Britain’s firebrand Opposition Leader Keir Starmer is supporting the measures implemented by the Government.
Starmer said: “Our priority is protecting the public’s health and saving lives. That is why we supported the lockdown and again support the restrictions staying in place.”
We would only halt Covid-19 through solidarity
He also stated: “We want to support the Government to get this right and this is why we need a consensus on what happens next.”
In India, Rahul Gandhi stressed that he has differences with Prime Minister Narendra Modi but that “this is a time to unite and fight a common enemy.”
Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi said she has adopted a collaborative approach, with Modi taking the lead.
The influential Hindustan Times editorialised that “in exceptional times like these, the role of the Opposition changes somewhat.”
The newspaper hailed the Indian Opposition for backing the medical and economic measures, and urged that they “critique the Government if they are falling short.”
For his part, World Health Organisation’s President Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was emphatic: “We would only halt Covid-19 through solidarity.”
He called for “a shared commitment to ensure all people have access to all the tools to prevent, detect and defeat Covid-19.”
To be sure, the struggle is a most challenging one.
Medically, the world has not been confronted by a similar crisis since the Spanish Influenza a century ago, and fatalities in some countries are topping war-time figures.
Economically, reputable financial organisations are forecasting a crisis comparable only to the Great Depression of 1929.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said: “The magnitude and speed of the collapse … is unlike anything experienced in our lifetimes.”
The IMF added: “This is a crisis like no other, and there is substantial uncertainty about its impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.”
T&T is likely to face incalculable economic disaster
The World Bank commented: “Collectively, we must mobilise our boldest response ever to overcome the worst crisis in generations.’
Food supply is projected to become a critical issue, with the United Nations anticipating famines of “biblical proportions” in several countries.
Joblessness is rising in most countries, with dire predictions for upcoming months.
In the United States, the world’s strongest economy, one in five workers is on the breadline – and the worst is yet to come, according to the experts.
The tiny island state of Trinidad and Tobago – already buckling from the impact of low energy production and prices – is especially vulnerable and is likely to face incalculable economic disaster.
Several countries have formed recovery committees to prepare coordinated and comprehensive strategies to return their respective economies to stability and growth.
Each committee is comprised of experienced and knowledgeable professionals, who are mandated to prepare the ground for recovery through a broad range of measures.
In Singapore for example, their 17-member task force includes 15 industry representatives from across various sectors.
In mid-April, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley appointed a committee of experienced professionals with diverse backgrounds to create a roadmap “for Trinidad and Tobago post-Covid-19.”
I have since been asked to join the Committee, an appointment which I accepted, since it fits into my life’s mission of serving humanity, sharing my knowledge and experience and assisting in the development of my country.
I was both honoured and humbled to be asked to become a member of a team comprised of competent and accomplished professionals.
Let me take this opportunity to remind many that I have always displayed unwavering and unflinching support for Trinidad and Tobago above all else.
In 2010, I willingly gave up my hard-fought St Augustine seat and fought side by side with the COP representative, in an effort to create a united front against the then PNM government, resulting in an overwhelming victory for the Opposition forces and the country.
Similarly, in 2012 I marched with farmers against the Govt, of which I was part after food crops were mercilessly mowed down, putting what was right for my country before preservation of self and political affiliation.
The daunting and uncharted waters require national solidarity, shared responsibility, and active participation.
After all, the United Nations’ Secretary General Antonio Guterres reminds us that “societies are in turmoil and economies are in a nosedive.”
Guterres is profound in his assertion that “we must see countries not only united to beat the virus but also to tackle its profound consequences.”
The pandemic requires partnerships. It calls for unprecedented unity, resolve, teamwork and good faith.
I am proud to rally to the call on behalf of my mother Trinidad and Tobago.
I WILL GIVE IT MY ALL!