While extreme exaggeration is a known feature of electioneering, the UNC leader’s comparison of the Government’s Covid-19 repatriation exercise to slavery and indentureship is odious and insulting, and betrays a deep lack of historical knowledge. Further, her defiant insistence that “sunlight will kill Covid-19” is nothing short of ignorance writ large and stands right up there with Donald Trump’s advocacy of hydroxychloroquine.
In terms of the latter, one only has to look at the facts in the worst-hit areas in the world. Florida in the United States, São Paulo in Brazil and Maharashtra in India are all experiencing sunny temperatures similar to Trinidad and Tobago or warmer.
The fact that Kamla Persad-Bissessar would keep insisting on a debunked theory that flies in the face of the facts demonstrates a disturbing unwillingness to be persuaded by scientific fact. It would be bad enough if she were just a private individual with views limited to herself. However, as a national leader with a substantial following, it is reckless and irresponsible of her to encourage people to subscribe to a fallacy which could put them at risk of coronavirus if they decided to follow their leader and act on her advice. We have already seen the devastating impact in the US where over four million people have been infected with close to 150,000 deaths.
The only message Mrs Persad-Bissessar should be sending is that everyone should wear masks and observe social distancing.
As far for her comment that “to just give up on 10,000 of our people” wanting to come home is “worse than slavery and indentureship”, well we hardly know where to start with an abomination of such magnitude coming from an educated individual who has been in public life for 40 years and risen to the office of Prime Minister. This goes beyond exaggeration to utter disrespect and calumny.
Given the dogged manner in which she has dug in her heels on the sunlight treatment, we doubt she would find the humility to apologise to the millions of enslaved and shackled Africans who died crossing the Middle Passage and the millions more who were sold as property and endured the most violent, dehumanising existence for over 200 years. But she should. Equally, she should apologise to the indentured who lived under the whip and in squalor, suffering brutality and indignity for seven decades. Her seizing of this horrific and anguished past to score political points is an opportunism that respects no boundaries in seeking advantage at any cost.
There are valid grounds on which the UNC leader can challenge the Government’s management of the pandemic, including the repatriation of nationals. Perhaps she finds it too taxing to present those arguments. However, we encourage her to make the effort because lives are in the balance.
This newspaper has warned about the lax border security that allows a steady flow of illegal migrants from South America, where coronavirus is spreading at an unmanageable rate. We have also taken serious issue with the Government’s response to the pleas of nationals trapped overseas, which has been unnecessarily callous in some cases and lacking in transparency. Mrs Persad-Bissessar can make her case by just sticking to the facts.