Long before the election date was announced on July 5, 2021 I had already listed a long string of things I would wish to see done by whichever party won the elections.
Long before either of the two major parties launched their usual late manifestos, I’d also decided to convert my library of ideas, suggestions and recommendations into a document entitled ‘My Manifesto’, to have been launched during the campaign but with-held on account of other priorities that arose during the short 21-day window.
Fifteen days after the General Elections gave the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) a 13-4 mandate and a 15-2 majority in parliament, I think I can afford to share some of the growing list of ideas, but starting with my own perceptions of a Priority List.
Most of my ideas preceded the election and selection of the Cabinet of Ministers and none have been discussed with any Cabinet Minister or any member of the leadership of the SLP.
My historical political relationship with the SLP at the leadership level is no secret and in this case my proximity to the current leadership of state and party has only served to (hopefully) better fashion the ideas to be presented for public consideration, bearing in mind that these are not ideas for me, but for all of us.
Let’s start with some immediate national tasks that I think should top the new Cabinet’s 100 Days Priority List, which in these times has to start with an immediate COVID-19 Emergency response that will activate and develop the inherited legislative framework and mechanisms already in place until October (and which can and should be extended for as long as COVID remains the global menace it is and the immediate threat it represents to Saint Lucian life.
The 100 Days COVID Response would be the immediate step as part of a longer One year Plan that will be fed by and after urgent and early consideration of the vital updates from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO).
The COVID-19 100-day national emergency response should include (but not be limited to):
• An emergency National Education Drive mobilizing the state media and all national mainstream and social media agencies to take the COVID-19 Response Message to all individual communities island-wide, on a House-by-House basis (both actually and virtually), in both national languages
• National Testing Drive: As far back as April 2020 I advocated that instead of charging over US $100 for a COVID Test the government should seek help from the likes of Senegal to get individual testing kits costing no less than one US dollar, to make testing affordable and easier. I also suggested the testing could have been done alongside the national House-by-House voter registration exercise. I still hold that a national testing drive is absolutely essential to ensure the national medical and health authorities have the figures and numbers, the basic empirical data needed to best accurately guide their scientific and technical decisions. And the numbers since the election campaign surely point to the Delta Variant either already being here and not yet discovered, or definitely on the national doorstep in Martinique, as well as Antigua & Barbuda and Barbados. In addition, there are over 50 confirmed cases of the UK’s Kent Variant. National Testing couldn’t be more needed than now.
• Introducing Vaccine Choices is also essential. State efforts to necessarily expand vaccination in the wider national interests have been met with violence and active promotion of preservation of vaccine resistance through presentation of the COVID battle as a Human Rights battle, is pregnant with negative political and societal possibilities that are already being seen in the region. Presentation of Resistance to Vaccination as a fight for defense of personal rights vis-à-vis the state’s elected responsibility and duty to always and only protect and preserve wider national health interests is a dangerous trend that’s already unfortunately taken hold and is growing regionally. The political divisions in the society will yield political responses that will always be taken advantage of by political forces and any new national strategy must take all that into consideration. The conspiracy theories that have taken hold also need to be addressed to encourage people to continue to trust medicine and vaccinate.
• Fighting Conspiracy Theories is essential and should be part of the new or continuing national emergency response. The truth exists to debunk all such theories and the science exists to ensure that the apologists for conspiracy theories are only contributing to the longer time that COVID will remain and only serving the interests of the same multinational pharmaceutical companies they claim are in conspiracies with politicians to control people’s minds and take over the world. There’s enough out there to prove that contrary to the prevailing theories, this is a battle between Science and Stupidity.
• Combating Politicization of the Pandemic: Serious steps must be considered and taken, early enough, to discourage (if not outlaw nake partisan politicization of the COVID battle, including encouraging people to endanger the health and life of the national collective in their personal interests and in ways that seriously affect and impede the national COVID Fight. There’s no way of escaping mandating vaccinations in key areas to protect the unvaccinated, which is already under way in the USA and Europe at early, quiet but active levels. People have to be made to appreciate that not only is the wider national interest higher and more important than individual rights, but also that even in a democracy it is already illegal to advocate death or suicide and encouraging people not to vaccinate at the possible cost of their lives is nothing less than deadly and criminal. Individuals have every right to stand-up for their rights, but no one has a right to endanger anyone else’s life – and not their families, or even theirs…
Sounding harsh? Yes, because extreme times (as we face with COVID-19 today as you read this) require hard (and sometimes harsh) decisions in the national interests.
It is useless to elect governments and have Cabinet Ministers swear on the Constitution and the Bible to exercise strong mandates to carry out their duties and responsibilities to the electorate and the nation-at-large and then call on the administrations to yield to deadly and costly theories like ‘informed consent’ that only delay necessary urgent action in the name of rights to choose whether to live or die.
We already have politicians who unsuccessfully sought to represent people in parliament germinating deadly conspiracy theories equating the already unhealthy divide between Vaccinated and Unvaccinated to racial discrimination. There’s also the misguided initial and small partisan reaction by supporters of all parties, who continue to behave as if the Prevention and Protection Protocols were only designed to be policed during the election campaign – which has to be nipped in the bud on all sides.
The new Health Minister, Hon. Moses Jn Baptiste) as the ruling party’s Chairman and spokesman on Health and COVID-related issues, is an experienced Cabinet Minister with not just a wealth of political and gubernatorial knowledge, but is also an excellent skilled popular cultural and linguistic communicator, is not a doctor, but is well placed to listen and lead and act in accordance with national needs instead of only on the basis of individual or personal considerations.
Like I said earlier, this is simply a matter of Science over Stupidity, but it does not mean that the sensible among us should act senselessly or stupidly just to look or sound politically correct while unvaccinated people continue to go to hospital – and die.
Let the government rise to the unusual occasion by doing those things that will ensure its legacy will be one of taking (even unpopular) proactive and early action in the national interest when it’s most needed, instead of condemnation for inaction when urgent action was absolutely necessary and vital – like now!