The initiation of a Commission of Enquiry into the Government’s management of Covid-19, for which Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is so passionately clamouring, would be instructive if it presented an opportunity for the people of Trinidad and Tobago to hear from her just how she would have managed this health crisis had she been in charge.
It is possibly the one occasion on which I am prepared to allow a little credence to those who claim that “God is a Trini”. Can you imagine what we could have faced had Mrs Persad-Bissessar and her UNC been in office at this time?
But she now has the benefit of hindsight, that deceptive phenomenon by which people perceive already occurred events to be more predictable than they actually were. In other words, the “I knew it all along” syndrome.
In this context, how would Mrs Persad-Bissessar now explain to the people of this country her rationale for insisting that “sunlight will cure Covid”.
Or how about her persistent troll that the Government’s foresight in closing the country’s borders was really an expression of political thuggery that was especially aimed at debarring thousands of UNC electors from returning to T&T to vote in the last elections?
Additionally, how would the Opposition Leader now explain her reluctance to impress upon the minds of her dutiful followers the prudence of strictly observing the health guidelines that have long been a fundamental element of this and other governments’ management of Covid?
And would the high point of her own Covid management process have been, as she suggested, the construction of a “protective dome” over T&T?
The fact is, calling for a Commission of Enquiry into the management of Covid in the midst of the very pandemic is tantamount to holding a Commission of Enquiry into the July 1990 Muslimeen insurrection while the malevolent Muslimeen were still holding hostages at gunpoint both at TTT and at the Red House. It is sheer UNC idiocy that could deliver nothing either useful or conclusive.
Mrs Persad Bissessar hinges the candour of her call on a recent statement by her idol, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, agreeing to initiate a Commission of Enquiry into his own government’s handling of the pandemic in Britain.
But even though Johnson may look a bit bonkers and was fired from multiple jobs before assuming the big one, he is sane enough to know that you do not have a probe into the management of a catastrophe in the midst of the very catastrophe.
So, Johnson has made it clear that if there must be such an enquiry it would not start before next year, because of the threats England still faces from a potential Covid-19 surge in winter and from the prospect of new variants spreading in the UK.
“We must not divert or distract the people we depend upon in the heat of our struggle against this disease,” said the British Prime Minister.
He said people must “be mindful of the scale of that undertaking and the resources required to do it properly”, indicating that there would not be results from such an inquiry for years to come.
Typically, Mrs Persad-Bissessar has simply decided to piggyback on the thoughts of another world leader without understanding the advantages and disadvantages inherent in those thoughts.
The fact is that the manner in which T&T has responded to the virus is no different from elsewhere. Except that this country had the laudable foresight to establish a parallel health structure in which Covid patients were separated from normal hospital inmates, with the expected positive result.
Having seen her inane prescriptions for dealing with Covid dismissed, denigrated and ridiculed by the general population, the total focus of Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar is now toward saying or doing anything possible to discredit the Government in a bid to gain some hitherto elusive political gains.
So, with the Covid “super-spreaders” having been countenanced and supported by her UNC, with her support base largely ignoring the persistent Rowley-led appeals to observe the anti-Covid guidelines, with her sanctioning of an avalanche of legal challenges by her UNC lawyers to frustrate every effort to combat the virus, and with a slew of intractable Covid variants now mostly infecting the careless, Mrs Persad-Bissessar accuses the Government of mismanaging the pandemic.
Of course, she conveniently disregards the fact that the Rowley administration has been bending over backward to sustain lives and livelihoods, to the extent where T&T, from “early o’clock”, was internationally recognised as having the gold standard of Covid management.
Her dearth of original ideas may be the reason why she so quickly denounced the remedial measures promptly adopted by the health authorities to stem the surging tide of persons who suddenly decided to adhere to the wisdom of getting a Covid vaccination.
Characteristically, without proposing any alternative suggestion for redress, the Opposition Leader ensured that the entire media was swamped with news of her “dire prediction” that inoculating people in alphabetical order simply would not work.
“There are too many people whose surnames start with the letter A and they will continue to crowd the vaccination centres,” she said.
So, she is even determined to throw a political spoke in the wheel of vaccination—a non-partisan process that may be the last resort toward getting rid of this socially upsetting, economically disruptive and deadly 21st century disease called Covid-19.
Dr Keith Rowley is the first and only Prime Minister of T&T to be called upon to take this country through a pandemic. The extent of the strength, resolve and transparency with which he has pursued that role solidly affirms the fact that, as it sails through some of the choppiest waters it has ever encountered, the ship of state is fortunate to have a real captain at the helm.
• Errol Pilgrim is a veteran journalist