True to form, AG Faris Al-Rawi has belatedly put in a defence on his mask-less, pal-hugging, arm-wrestling appearance on an online game show that is as blurred in its argument as he claims the lines on mask-wearing can get.
Initially juggling contradictory positions without so much as a mea culpa, he argued that his appearance was “taken out of context” and in any case, “it was no different from sitting down in a restaurant and having a conversation”.
Since this senior Cabinet member cannot see what’s wrong with this picture, we will spell it, not only for him but for Superintendent Roger Alexander, one responsible for making laws and the other for enforcing them.
First, some elementary points about personal responsibility. Mr Al-Rawi and Supt Alexander and everyone on that show frankly are a danger to everyone if they think that, especially in the midst of a new surge of Covid-19 infection, it was enough to take temperature and sanitise hands before getting so up-close-and-personal to others without wearing a mask and therefore breathe on each other.
Contrary to what the AG claims, his game show performance was not “like sitting down in a restaurant”. The reason restaurants are restricted by law to providing only 50 per cent dine-in service, thereby taking a financial hit for the public’s health, is to maintain the very social distancing so openly flouted on the game show.
He has learned nothing about Covid-19 in a whole year if he does not realise that he could very well have walked into that room and infected everyone, or have left the session having picked up the virus there and taken it home or anywhere else with him.
With this single act of carelessness and irresponsibility, Mr Al-Rawi and Supt Alexander made a pappyshow of the national effort to promote mask-wearing and social-distancing. If it is now okay to be unmasked while arm-wrestling and hugging people who are not part of one’s safety bubble, then we might as well all return to pre-pandemic norms with Dr Rowley himself foregoing masks and social distancing at news conferences and other events.
The apology eventually issued by AG Al-Rawi yesterday afternoon was so dodgy and full of qualifiers that he might as well not have bothered. Predictably, he argued that he had broken no law, when in fact the case against him is his breach of the very protocols that health authorities and the Government have been drumming into the public’s head from day one. If the AG cannot simply admit to an awful lapse in judgment then it is hard to see who can be held to better judgment.
It is shocking that, of all people, the Attorney General cannot clearly see how his actions can undermine the national effort. In other countries, senior members of cabinet have been fired or resigned for much less because they are presumed to be held to a higher standard. We in Trinidad and Tobago have never had qualms about actions that impinge on one’s moral authority to lead. It would therefore be surprising if, in this case, not getting a free pass amounted to anything more than a prime ministerial bouff and a few days in cold storage.