Daily Express Editorial

Given the Prime Minister’s statement that he had no intention of seeking an extension of the state of emergency when it came to a natural end at month-end, we, too, are taken aback by his decision to end the SoE on Wednesday, 12 days ahead if its scheduled end.

We find the decision surprising not only because of his prior statement just a week earlier, but because it came on the very day that the country recorded its second highest daily number of Covid-19 deaths amid a spike in new infections from 400 to 500-plus over four consecutive days.

Dr Rowley’s comment that the SoE had served its purpose as a “holding arrangement” to limit “exposure and mixing” until the vaccine programme had been rolled out made little sense given that roughly 50 per cent of the population is unvaccinated at a time when the dangerous Delta variant is raging. Could a more plausible explanation for Dr Rowley’s decision be the ruling party’s campaign for the Tobago House of Assembly election on December 6?

After all, bringing up the end of the SoE to this Wednesday, the THA campaign will benefit from an additional 12 days free from curfew and SoE conditions.

Although Dr Rowley went on to promise enforcement of the public regulations, the message communicated by this action is that when it matters, politics will trump public health.

We have witnessed this before in both the August 2020 general election and the THA election in January.

The point here is that when it serves its interest, the Government has shown itself willing to prioritise politics over the public’s health. It should therefore not be surprised when its Covid management programme is tripped up by a sceptical public who sees in its actions reason for doubt and distrust. Predictably, the Opposition, having not supported the SoE in the first place, has already pounced on the Government’s decision to end it early, seeing it as a sign that the ruling party’s campaign in Tobago is in trouble.

Given the acrimonious nature of T&T’s politics, the deadly Delta variant could not have picked a worse time to flare up. Thanks to intense electoral rivalry and riven loyalties, our defences are at their weakest just when we need the strength of national unity to mount an assault against Covid-19.

Sadly, at no stage during this pandemic has T&T had the united leadership required for rallying the population towards a united national defence. At the beginning, in March 2020, the Government took complete control with a high-expenditure and highly centralised management and communications machinery. Crowded out and recognising the political interests at stake in an election year, the Opposition went on the offensive against the Government’s every initiative.

In the absence of scientific data, it would be impossible to gauge to what extent partisan politics have shaped attitudes towards the public health regulations and the vaccine.

With infection and deaths on the rise, the moment is now for both sides to introspect and consider how their actions may be fuelling both and what they should do about it.

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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has once again got his wires crossed on the media.

Asked by this newspaper to comment on Opposition allegations regarding his purchase of a $1.2 million townhouse in Tobago, Dr Rowley responded with sarcasm, annoyance and deflection, before saying, “I am really not interested in anything they have to say about anything that I or my family PURCHASED.” (His emphasis).

Trinidad and Tobago is a small society. It consists of about 1.4 million souls in a world of 7.9 billion people. A pandemic has struck the world.

At the time of writing, there were 263,510,704 cases and 5,224,655 deaths as a result of this pandemic. In the United States, there were 48,144,799 cases and 777,090 deaths; in India, 34,606,541 cases and 470,115 deaths; in Brazil, 22,105,872 cases and 614,964 deaths.

Nearly three months ago, in a column published on September 5, I called on the Government to consider legislative options in the face of the Delta coronavirus variant threat.

Wouldn’t it be... ’er, amusing if the Farley Augustine-led, Watson Duke-bred Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) canters away to win the Tobago Stakes in tomorrow’s rerun of the House of Assembly election?

Covid-19 brought an exhausting string of events. First, we had to wash our hands, and then we had to wear masks, social distance from all, then lock down. To be vaccinated or not. Fear populated our every moment as we realised how little control we had over our lives.

Last week I wrote of “civilisation receding” in Trinidad and Tobago. I focused on the violent, decadent culture we have here, evidenced in unprecedented rates of horrific murders, child abuse, domestic violence, youth hooliganism and promiscuity, with the entire environment further fouled by the often decadent language of the prime minister, all pointing to a “failure of homes and family life, communities, government and politics”.