A soothing and reassuring voice amid the tumult, one that has always been a soothing, reassuring wellspring of hope and resolve, that is what the country has been hearing from former prime minister and leader of the opposition, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and member of parliament for Siparia.
In January, Persad-Bissessar was the first to raise the issue of what was then known as the coronavirus in the House of Representatives but her efforts were immediately thwarted by the Speaker who deemed that this issue was not a matter “of urgent and public important in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Had the country, through the Lower House heeded the opposition leader and the United National Congress (UNC) early warning, we would have been way ahead in dealing with the crisis.
She offered a bi-partisan approach by offering to meet with the prime minister – but instead of the prime minister putting aside partisan politics to deal with this pandemic, he responded in the nastiest, low-class rebuff, reflective of his acrimony, hate, and politics.
The prime minister eventually agreed to meet with the opposition leader and her team. Persad-Bissessar reported to the country that the opposition presented recommendations on how to deal with health emergence and assured the government that the opposition stands ready, willing and able to assist with the national effort to ensure our citizens’ safety and health are protected.
While Persad-Bissessar showed leadership and professionalism, the prime minister’s response was anything but that…
According to Dr Tim Gopeesingh, one of the members of parliament who accompanied her, Dr Rowley has been nothing short of acrimonious. His agitated tone was in sharp contrast to what is currently taking place in most countries, where there is unity and bipartisanship to combat the worst medical crisis in modern history… he remains politically divisive and caustic even amid the deadly disease.
Despite extreme provocation in the daily briefings by national security minister, Stuart Young and the garrulous, unqualified minister of health Terrence Deyalsingh, – Persad-Bissessar kept calm and brought the resources of her party, including qualified medical personnel, to the aid of the citizenry.
She has offered ideas for dealing with the crisis. No other opposition leader, even here in Canada, has been as vocal as Persad-Bissessar in offering ideas.
Most of all, with Trinidad and Tobago in economic turmoil from this pandemic, one must thank Persad-Bissessar for her insistence on being financially prudent and responsible during her administration when she ensured that millions of dollars were always deposited in the Heritage and Stabilization Fund, which together with FX reserves are now the lifeblood on which we have to depend.
It is the same HSF the Rowley-led administration is signalling will be used to cushion the economic fallout from this pandemic.
More importantly, it should be noted that the current administration has not deposited one cent into the HSF from the day it came into office in September 2015.
It is unfortunate, that, ill-advised trolls of the PNM continue with their childish ad hominem attacks on the political leader of the UNC, never taking on board her excellent ideas. At the same time, they hypocritically bray that we are all in this together.
It is time prime minister Rowley reign in his combative tone and style which is less than reassuring to the majority of citizens. He must stop politicizing this dreaded COVID-19 pandemic and ask his supporters to desist from their nastiness which is becoming a hallmark of the PNM.
If he does not then he remains the leader of less than half of the country.