THE CARING SOCIETY WE NEED

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COMMENTARY BY JUSTICE HERBERT VOLNEY

Successive administrations at Whitehall have been mandated by the elector­ate to pursue promised plat­form promises of delivering on the caring society.

One cannot but consider that we as electors have been duped on each occasion that we’ve left our homes and gone to the poll­ing booth to vote for one party or the other. For ‘whatsoever you do to the least of your brothers and sisters, you do unto me’ says the Lord Jesus.
I do not profess to write for cultures and religious algorithms I know not of but for the Chris­tian one with which I am familiar. I am raised in the teachings of the Holy Roman Catholic faith. Com­forting and offering hope to the least of us is central to this belief. Counting money and self-enrich­ment are not the pathway to our salvation.
For this reason, my measure of the success of a government is quite different. In writing, I cannot but reflect upon the most vulner­able of our brothers and sisters – the elderly, the sick, and the school-leavers.

The old people

Pension reform is very dear to me because I am a pensioner who has recently benefited from a pen­sion reset. This government has spoken of indexing government pensions and of bringing under the pension cover thousands of daily-paid workers. This is great news if it means that my senior brethren are given a reset of their pension at latest ten years after the initial calculation. By this time, it is difficult to get by in view of price increases in the cost of living. Many would like to be independent of our children and maintain some modicum of dig­nity. Many have been moved out of the master bedroom and placed in more lowly furnishings in our own homes by family. We pen­sioners are so vulnerable as we get older that we need the protec­tion of the State. A reliable supply of drugs with easy access is what we need. Why not have a depart­ment of aging so we don’t have to spend long periods in line to col­lect life-saving drugs we need to be kept alive.
It is good news that native-born government pensioners no longer have to travel at times great dis­tances to execute life certificates to maintain our pensions. Why not those of us born elsewhere but who have spent all our lives working and building Trinidad and Tobago. It was debilitating to see so many old octogenarians standing in line with me to have our life certificates executed. Among the group was a widowed nurse from Ireland married to a Trinidadian who has lived her entire life in this country helping to build it. What about that cadre of Barbadian former policemen, or agricultural officers from the islands? I can only imagine for­mer Chief Justice Cecil Kelsick being taken in his wheelchair by his daughter to prove that he is still alive. He has been spared this ignominy by death. The govern­ment must move to correct this anomaly.

Our sick and elderly

Then what about our sick, young and old, on long waiting lists for routine elective surgeries to lengthen life, ease debilitating pain and suffering or to save eyesight. My friend on Facebook ‘Mali’ has had a bleeding 12 cm fibroid cyst on her womb for over eighteen months just wait­ing for surgery to spare her of this unimaginable pain and suf­fering, and perhaps, loss of life at age 30. Happily, the Minister of Health is now moving on this case but there are hundreds like it. Rather than seek to build new highways to nowhere, or ports that will be under-utilized, how about engaging private health facilities to assist the sick and eradicating the long waiting lists? What about the Cancer Facility at Mt Hope incomplete for over ten years and standing as a monument of failure by the PNM and the
UNC?

A glimmer of hope

The creation of 8,000 new OJT jobs for our secondary school leav­ers is salutary. Put some money in the pockets of our youth so they won’t have to engage in wrong to stay afloat. What I would prefer to see is mandatory National Service to be administered by COSTATT for those who want government support for tertiary education and as a prerequisite to entering the public sector.

A Blessed nation

Let us see new approaches. Let us see a more caring and people-centred government at Whitehall. Let’s ensure that we cover the least of our brothers and sisters and we shall be a blessed nation.