Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

‘GREATER INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY’: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley waves as he arrives for the sitting of Parliament held at the Red House, Port of Spain, yesterday. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday the lifting of the State of Emergency which took place at midnight had nothing to do with the December 6 Tobago House of Assembly election.

He was winding up the debate on the motion for the revocation of the SoE in the House of Representatives. The motion was carried by a vote of 20 for (Government), none against, 14 abstentions (Opposition).

The Prime Minister said the way the Opposition was behaving one would believe that the campaigning for elections takes place between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. (which was the period of the curfew). “Absolute dotishness!” he said.

“Anybody knows that those who are canvassing for any political party, especially the PNM, as soon as sunset kicks in, you end your canvassing programme. Nobody canvasses in the night. So the removal of a State of Emergency (curfew) between 10 in the night and 5 in the morning has nothing to do with any election. But you (the UNC) wouldn’t know that. You (the UNC) don’t engage in canvassing. You appeal to race and religion and your party is fixed on that. You don’t take part in elections in Tobago. An election is taking place in Tobago, you take no part in it. You hide behind the PDP (Progressive Democratic Party), can’t find a candidate to put up in Tobago, but you know about canvassing in Tobago, to come and disturb people’s psyche with nonsense,” he thundered.

The Prime Minister added that the UNC “got some friend in the media” to write in an editorial the “same nonsense about politics trumping public health”. Embracing Shamfa Cudjoe’s response (‘Nobody lives there’) to claims of gerrymandering in Tobago made by San Juan/Barataria MP Saddam Hosein, the Prime Minister said he wanted to tell Hosein who “has already made a character of himself” that “at night in Tobago, nobody canvasses there!” The Prime Minister said whether the SoE had stayed or not, the people in Tobago were governed by the public health regulations in respect of gatherings.

“All we are saying is that we are shifting our focus from lockdown and state of emergency because we now have a larger number of people who are vaccinated, we would love to have many more but at this point in time we step forward and take responsibility. I hear one of my colleagues taking issue with the fact that the Government is asking people to take personal responsibility for themselves. That is exactly what you have to do to protect yourself in a pandemic,” he said.

He accused the Opposition of opposing for opposing sake, and of being “very useless and very obstructive”.

“Exactly what they ask for, they get. You give it to them, they don’t want it. How do we please our colleagues on the other side?” he asked.

PM to UNC: Be happy with end of SoE

The Prime Minister said the Opposition had “vehemently” opposed the SoE and what they described as the “unjustified” extension, describing it as a “PNM power grab” and accusing the Government of “stealing people’s God-given rights and freedoms”, of “seeking to silence the Opposition” and labelling the Government’s actions as “tyrannical”.

“If that is your position, how come when the State of Emergency is to be ended, you have a problem? Yuh (the UNC) want to know why the Prime Minister is ending the State of Emergency? Because we said (from the start that) we would only keep it for as long as it was required to be done... So you make the call to end the State of Emergency and focus on the vaccination programme but you have a problem with the ending of the SoE? You should be jumping up and down today singing Alleluia... Thank you”, the Prime Minister said.

Responding to Opposition calls for him to provide data on the efficacy of the SoE, specifically “how many would have been infected and how many would have died if we didn’t have a State of Emergency”, Rowley asked: “Madame Speaker, they (the UNC) serious? The State of Emergency was meant to prevent an explosion of cases. I don’t know how they would have known how many people would have been infected if we hadn’t done it. But anecdotally and from looking at other people’s experiences who didn’t do that...we saw persons (countries) who were having 200 infections a day and that jumped to 2,000. That is the kind of situation we could have had,” he said.

The Prime Minister said he could easily say that during the period when there was a largely unvaccinated population, had the Government not restrained the amount of movement and mixing, it is reasonable to assume that a larger number of people would have been infected and would have generated a larger number of sick people, many of whom could have died.

He said during the May, June, July period the fight was to get vaccines.

The Prime Minister said that the Government was stopping the SoE yesterday because it has been accepted that while rising numbers of infections would come as the economy is opened up and more people are moving around, it is hoped that those persons infected are vaccinated persons who would not require hospital care, intensive unit care and high dependency unit care. “Do not expect lockdowns every time the numbers go up. We have to buckle down and survive by fighting the virus... and having greater individual responsibility,” he said.

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