Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissesssar says the UNC party remain committed to any and every measure of collaboration and support necessary and possible with the Government to ensure that the people of T&T are quickly and effectively protected during this economic and social crisis.
March 23, 2020
The opposition leader held talks with the Prime Minister last Friday where a document was presented citing fiver key social pillars which she says are aimed at protecting this country’s democratic institutions.
The following is a press release from the Opposition Leader:
I note with interest recent statements by some public officials regarding the Opposition UNC’s bipartisan talks with the Honourable Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, and senior Cabinet members, which were held on Friday, March 20, 2020, at my request. This was in an effort to adopt, as best as possible, a workable bipartisan approach to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that is engulfing the world, and has caused, in a matter of just two weeks, a serious social, economic and medical crisis in our nation and globally.
I wish to state that despite any negative comments in the public domain regarding this matter, my position remains the same—and that is that I, and the UNC party the I lead, remain committed to any and every measure of collaboration and support necessary and possible with the Government and any other State entity to ensure that our nation and people are quickly and effectively protected during this economic and social crisis, and that the virus’s potential spread, and the resulting health crisis and possible loss of lives are prevented at all costs.
As I have previously stated on more than one occasion, this stance of bipartisan cooperation is in acute recognition of the fact that the extremely serious nature of this unprecedented global, regional and national crisis, and its devastating effects on the lives and public and private institutions of our country, essentially mandate that all citizens, and especially those in key leadership roles in the Public Service, are duty-bound and morally mandated to come together to work for, and on behalf of, the people of our beloved nation.
In the bipartisan talks on Friday, the Opposition presented a document to the Prime Minister citing the five key social pillars aimed at protecting our very democratic institutions and the people of our land which would need the State’s coherent and cohesive support during this ongoing crisis.
This memo included detailed recommendations for ensuring that our medical response follows the International Best Practice and focuses on increased, effective, efficient and widespread testing and monitoring of the Coronavirus and its prevention and containment according to the World Health Organization’s standard. It also recommended measures to ensure that our health institutions are rapidly upgraded and equipped with necessary treatment apparatus such as increased ventilators, medical personnel, hospital rooms and beds and drugs for rapid and effective patient treatment and management. We also recommended that the Government revise the regulations to allow private medical labs to do testing of COVID-19 in the medium and long term.
Other recommendations put forth by the Opposition UNC included protecting the poor, vulnerable citizens such as the elderly and differently-abled, by ensuring fiscal measures are in place to buffer the economic crisis that COVID-19 has engendered, as well as detailed measures to cushion the effects of the said crisis on small businesses, employment and the economy. The Opposition UNC’s memo to the PNM Government also cited the need to implement a comprehensive plan to protect the social safety and standard of living of all citizens during this trying time, since there are very valid fears, and current realities, of job losses and unemployment resulting from the drastic, but admittedly necessary, social distancing measures needed to combat the Coronavirus.
Further, the UNC as a party has embarked, as of last week, on an aggressive plan of action focusing on educating and supporting our citizenry as to their social responsibility towards prevention of this deadly disease, and implementing measures in our party and Parliamentary offices to protect our employees and members of the public. Our Local Government councillors have also actively engaged in sanitization and other much-needed prevention efforts, while we are engaging with our constituents as to how to best benefit from all State relief measures.
I have noted that as of today, the Government has announced measures that clearly reflect their active consideration of our recommendations, and indeed, both the Health Minister and Prime Minister are on public record of previously thanking the Opposition UNC MPs for our ‘useful’ contributions and recommendations, some made even before Friday’s bipartisan discussions.
This, I reiterate, is in keeping with our mandate and legal responsibility as elected public servants of 18 constituencies and seven Regional Corporations to serve, through distribution, management and implementation of State resources, as well as legislative policy making in the Parliament, over half of the 1.3 million population of Trinidad and Tobago.
At this stage, I recommit myself, and the UNC party that I lead, to our stance of working with the Government where legally possible, through our roles as MPs and Local Government councilors, and in accordance to our Constitutional mandate and Oath of Office, to ensure that all decisions taken by the Government to utilize State resources to serve and protect our population at this time of crisis is actively and duly supported by my party.
I further commit to ensuring, as far as legally possible, that all Government’s decisions are implemented in accordance with our democratic principles of fairness, justice, equality and effective and efficient service to all citizens, for at the end of the day, that is our mandate as public servants—to serve our citizens, who are and remain our ultimate and in fact, only employers. I stand proud and uncontested on the fact that my personal record and that of my MPs and Local Government councillors concerning the Coronavirus fight thus far remain a testimony to this adopted stance.
At this time of such unprecedented global and domestic crisis, when our citizens are anxious, uncertain and indeed, traumatized, about the unceasing uncertainty of the preservation of their very health and social safety, and day to day lifestyles and livelihoods, I further wish to stress that it is very important, and indeed, a moral and even legal mandate, that leaders of any and all levels of influence, and especially those elected to public office, adhere to the tenet of unity, bipartisanism and a national outlook and message in all their efforts to fight this crisis, even as they utilize our State resources, on and behalf of, our citizenry.
Now, more than ever, we need leaders to show that they will rise above the instinct to politicize any and every issue, and to ensure that whatever they do is in fact done in the best interest of the population and in the furtherance and betterment of our time honoured democratic principles. It is indeed our sacred mandate as politicians in public life, and I daresay, human beings in a civil society which advances as its foundation, the tenet of respect, tolerance, compassion and unity.
I wish to once again urge all citizens at every possible level, in every possible medium available to them, to suppress the instinct for demonization or dehumanization of our fellow citizens during this crisis, for though we are all anxious and afraid of its unpredictable, fluid and frankly frightening impact thus far, we must ensure that we band together to ensure that we survive its worst effects in a spirit of cooperation, grace, empathy and humanity.
After all, at the end of the day, when this crisis and trauma has passed, as God willing it must, we all, as equal citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, have a democracy and country to retain, and we will all be called on to live and rebuild our beautiful country as individuals, communities, a society, a Parliament and a Government in the spirit of tolerance, unity, love, dedication and humanity. Failure, therefore, to begin doing so from now puts us all at very grave risk of destroying our country and people, our natural human and national instinct for unity, tolerance and love, our sacred democracy, and indeed, our very soul of our beloved nation.