If we had not fully grasped it before, the coronavirus pandemic has brought home in dramatic fashion the interconnectedness of all humanity. At this very minute, the health and possibly survival of each one of us depends on the decisions and actions of people we don’t know, in countries we may never even set foot in. Vice versa. This is the reality of 21st century globalisation.
Panic buying and toilet paper hoarding may be a logical response to fear and the need for control in a time of unknowns, but unless we completely cut off ourselves from everyone prior to infection and stay hunkered down until the risk is eliminated by vaccine or natural death, no amount of money spent or hoarded stocks will protect us from the risk of infection.
Indeed, securing our own advantages at the expense of others could very well increase our own risk if those who lack the means to support and protect themselves decide to engage in riskier behaviour. In a very real sense, therefore, we must be each other’s keeper if we are to get out of this crisis. This is why we condemn all efforts to sow panic and promote division at a time when T&T most needs its people to pull together as one. While we have come to expect such irresponsibility from social media trolls, the last people one would expect such recklessness from are leaders who sit in the exalted seats of our Parliament.
The Facebook post by Opposition Senator Khadijah Ameen, Deputy Leader of the United National Congress, is a glaring example of how T&T is consistently failed by those entrusted with leadership responsibility.
If Ms Ameen has evidence that “there are more cases of COVID-19 in Trinidad than are being published,” we would expect her to present it in a responsible manner. If however she is merely repeating rumour, giving traction to fake information and feeding distrust in the information provided by the medical and scientific professionals of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), she should be denounced in the strongest possible terms and be required to withdraw the post and apologise to all.
The interest of no one, not even Ms Ameen, is served when desperation for political advantage is allowed to undermine public interest and welfare of this country and its people. We wait to see whether the Opposition Leader herself will demonstrate leadership in this matter or simply look the other way. Instead of joining the rumour-mongering, the Opposition should use the significant expertise available to it to play its role in holding the Government to account.
Better yet, it should promote an innovative bipartisanship as the most viable response to this national crisis. There are too many important issues to be dealt with for our leaders to descend into rumour. At this time where successful containment is still a possibility given that both confirmed cases of COVID-19 were imported, the Government should be challenged on its decision to keep the airports open and allow non-essential activities to continue with the risks associated with unnecessary congregation. This is no time for old talk but a time to test real leadership.