A MATTER OF GRAVE CONCERN
Dear Dr Rowley,
I know that I am not one of your favourite persons and I lose no sleep over that; nor equally is this newspaper a favourite of yours and yet, week after week, we still get by.
After all, ads against COVID-19 have been put in every media outlet in Trinidad & Tobago except this one – the only weekly in the country and the best in the Caribbean. Yet we do not hold that against you nor your government either, as we pray for you and your Cabinet each day saying, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
However, when it comes to the health of this country’s 1.3m people whom you are deliberately putting at risk, then it behoves me to write to you in a last-ditch effort to protect the people of this beautiful rainbow country.
Advanced and civilised countries all over the world have now declared some form of a State of Emergency (SoE) to protect their citizens from this pandemic but, up to now, you have refused to do so and are fiddling with people’s lives while Rome burns.
Is it because Kamla Persad Bissessar has called for it? Is it because this newspaper has been consistently asking for it? Is it because Israel Rajah Khan SC, who you no doubt perceive to be a “UNC lawyer” has publicly begged for it? Is it because at some point in time as Minister of National Security, Eddie Dillon said in Parliament, that your government will never resort to it? Or is it, as a large number of persons believe, you are protecting your financiers and one-percenter friends who stand to lose the most if it is called?
Why, Dr Rowley, why are you endangering us in this manner? There is going to be a lot of angry people by the time Covid-19 is brought under control when it eventually dawns upon them on the way your administration has gambled not only with our lives but also the lives of our loved ones.
People are going to be angry. A vexatious spirit will overcome us when after all is said and done, the reality hits home that this Government, in spite of knowing about the dangers of this deadly virus, chose to undertake an unfamiliar path and place our lives at risk.
Even now at this time, while this article is being written, there is a lack of sobriety in dealing with this problem, as you and your band of Ministers continue the game of Russian roulette with the lives of our people.
The time will come when we will fret no more and stand in total defence of those who died, of those who suffered and of those who are still in pain; and send a message to you that the fate of those who gamble with our lives will be more than just an unhappy one.
Since January 31, 2020, your government knew and understood the dangerous nature of this Coronavirus since just the day before, the World Health Organisation declared it “a Public Health Emergency of International Concern” and called upon the international community to raise US$675 million to help to protect states with weaker health systems as part of its Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.
A chronology of its evolution documented that by January 11, 2020, China recorded its first death due to this virus. By January 13, 2020, the first confirmed case was reported in Thailand outside of China.
On January 31, 2020 Dr Roodal Moonilal attempted to raise a motion
By January 31, 2020, the global village knew that this virus had the potential to take many lives. It was described as a “pneumonia of unknown cause” and since December 2019 scientists were paying attention; while some were grappling to understand this deadly global phenomenon. Yet our leaders postponed any kind of action to protect us.
By January 20, 2020, the world knew that the USA reported its first case in Washington DC, and despite the fact that most of the tourists who visit our country during the Carnival season come from the USA, you and your government, Dr Rowley, did nothing to prepare or to defend us from a possible invasion of this virus.
On January 31, 2020, Dr. Roodal Moonilal attempted to raise a motion as a matter of national importance for the Government and the Opposition to discuss this virus, but the PNM Speaker of the House, Bridgid Annisette-George, no doubt with your concurrence, did not view it as urgent or important.
On that same day, January 31, 2020, even the Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh refused to consider the cancellation of Carnival even after China imposed a lockdown on Wuhan and surrounding areas; and initiated the practice of social distancing early in January, and the WHO declared the virus a global emergency.
Your government never even considered protecting our citizens from Americans who became a vulnerable population and whose President Donald Trump took the decision to ban all Chinese immigrants.
The only response then by Deyalsingh, Young and you, Dr Rowley, was that our Carnival will not be cancelled.
By March 4, 2020, Dr. Timothy Gopeesingh again tried to raise a motion to discuss, as a matter of national importance, what was now called the Coronavirus by the global community as the world became aware of its lethal nature.
Gopeesingh’s motion was denied
This was more than one month after this virus claimed its first victim outside of China in the Philippines on February 2, 2020; less than one month after the first Covid-19 death in the USA on February 7, 2020.
Gopeesingh’s motion was denied, even though on February 9, 2020, the news broke that the death toll in China alone had surpassed the total death of 774 people, the number who were killed by a similar pandemic known as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Even then, you Dr Rowley, the Prime Minister, did not see the need to support the Opposition and discuss the threat to our national health.
Before the motion was even raised, we were reading about its spike in South Korea. We were reading about the first death in France on February 14, 2020. We were listening to the news from CNN reporting about the Covid-19 outbreak in Iran on February 19, 2020. As the world became engulfed with the threat of this virus, your PNM Government on March 4, 2020 saw no need to even discuss this threat as a matter of urgency in our Parliament.
On March 10, 2020, in the Senate, UNC Senator Saddam Hosein tabled a motion once again to discuss the threat of this virus as a matter of national importance. This time the Senate President, Christine Kangaloo, followed the precedent of the House Speaker and turned it down as a matter viewed as unimportant and not urgent.
It was when Senator Wade Mark, on March 17, 2020, raised one more time the matter in the Senate as a matter of urgency and again your Government, through the President of the Senate, refused even to discuss this matter, that the scurrilous nature of your renegade and selfish government was exposed.
On March 9, 2020, Italy had placed all 60 million of its residents on lockdown. By March 11, 2020, the World Health Organisation had declared this virus a global pandemic. On that same date President Trump banned incoming travel from 26 European countries and by March 13, 2020, the USA declared a national emergency over the Coronavirus outbreak. How come this was not a matter of urgency to be discussed?
The cold and callous nature of Deyalsingh, Young and you, Dr Rowley, cannot be explained away. There is no logic into the reasoning of your Government because March 17, 2020 would become the watershed day upon which the PNM will be judged. On that day the highest single-day death toll was reported as 475 and that was in Italy, the same day Senate President Christine Kangaloo refused to discuss the Covid-19 threat as a matter of urgency.
Feigning a sense of care
Today, you and the PNM pat each other’s back, calling media conferences day after day saying the same things and feigning a sense of care trying to convince us that you all are seeking the interest of the people. If that were the case, then 2020 Carnival would have been postponed and sometime between January 31 – March 17, 2020, your PNM Government would have acceded to the request of the Opposition to discuss the impending threat as a matter of urgency.
To compound your folly Dr Rowley, today you and your government are still gambling with our people’s lives, refusing to declare a State of emergency, not because you all do not see it as a matter of national importance but rather because it would seem that it is not in the interest of your financiers, your one-percenters. Decisions are not made in the interest of we the people, but instead in favour of the PNM business community.
To date there is nothing for you to boast about because on February 21, 2020, Italy had 21 cases of Covid-19 and the USA had 16 but as of April 2, 2020, 2020, the figures in Italy spiraled to 110, 574 cases while in the USA the infected amount is 215,215.
France and Germany had 18 confirmed cases of Covid-19 on February 26, 2020. As of March 31, 2020, just five weeks later, France has 56,989 confirmed cases while Germany has 77,77,981 inclusive of its Chancellor Angela Merkel. This is no laughing matter, Dr Rowley.
The fact that we only have 105 Covid-19 cases at the time of writing should give us no hope because with proper and prudent planning we could have been like the people of St. Vincent with just a single Covid-19 case as of April 2, 2020, and no deaths or like Grenada with 10 confirmed cases and no deaths as of the same date.
Grenada has declared a State of Emergency with specific curfew hours in which business can be conducted. That is what you call leadership that is in the interest of the people but you, Sir, continue to gamble with the lives of the people. Even Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, intuitively, is also lamenting the absence of a State of Emergency when he laments the fact that the only legal power the police has is to prevent groups of ten (mysteriously now five) from assembling. Mr Prime Minister, you could not have controlled the murder rate in this country which, at one time, was as much as 1.5 murders per day but you believe that you can control the behaviour of indisciplined people in the country who are putting their lives as well as the lives of others at risk.
Dr Rowley, you fail to understand the purpose of laws which should be implemented to interrupt the ruthless and merciless actions displayed on social media of those who are not prepared to fall in line but instead put us all at risk. But this is being done not in the interest of the national community but in the interest of the minority, business financiers of your party, whose doors must remain open at all cost while the rest of the country suffers
This ruthless gambling with our lives must stop. We are not in Fantasy Island. It is time that you Dr Rowley and your government put the interest of the little people first, ahead of the interest of the business community. The lives of especially the elderly (and you are one!) are mostly at risk, the lives of our mothers and grandmothers are at risk.
I, therefore, urge you to stop gambling with our lives. There is now high anxiety in our country. The time to play a waiting game in calling a State of Emergency has come to an end. It is NOW or NEVER!
Remember your Minister of health has warned that the situation is worse than World Wars I and II combined!
Sgd Jack Warner