Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says that his government will meet the psychological and material needs of the victims of the Rock Gutter tragedy and their families.
Five students died, two are missing at sea and presumed dead, and several others were injured when a minivan crashed into the sea on Jan. 12.
“Since this accident, we are being reminded over and over again to be strong and courageous. This is a test of nation’s resolve and our faith in Almighty God,” Gonsalves told a press event on Tuesday.
At the event, a seven-member choir from the Office of the Prime Minister launched a gospel CD, proceeds from which will go to the victims and their families.
Relatives of persons affected by the tragedy also attended the launching event.
“I believe that many of us would have been listening to the pastors and we ourselves reading the Bible to see if we can find answers. We raise a lot of questions, but where we cannot find answers by virtue of reasons, we have to rely on our faith,” he said.
Gonsalves said he has been studying the Bible more since the incident and noted Jacob’s dream at Bethel, adding that early in the Bible God pledges to fulfil his promise to us.
“We all have to be strong and courageous, and that is why we have to pass this test of our resolve and our faith individually. It’s not an easy thing. Every single family who has lost a loved one, is a very special family with its own individual circumstances. This tragedy has struck all, but there are differences amongst all the terrible similarities,” he said.
He said that Michael’s grandmother has lost a grandson some 25 years after her 17-year-old son died in an accident at Arnos Vale, which also claimed the lives of another youth.
“But, God is a good god and he gives us blessings amidst all the pain and suffering and anguish and tragedy and loss,” Gonsalves said.
He said that Station Sergeant Hezron Ballantyne, father of Simonique Ballantyne, has been a tower of strength and very helpful to the Coastguard and the people in the community in carrying out his duties as police officer.
Gonsalves further said that Ballantyne has been involved in mobilising persons to dive in search of his missing daughter and the other student and has been in touch with him (Gonsalves), giving updates and suggestions.
“I am sure that without him, his wife would have found it even more difficult,” Gonsalves said.
“I know that many of you, maybe all of you, and those who have survived, that it will take a long time for you to heal, and this is part of the process of healing, And we have the counsellors, and also there all the family support,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves said that he visited Fancy six times during the first week after the disaster.
“And I know in addition to what you are feeling, the trauma, there are material questions, and we have to talk about them and mobilise. I want to assure you that all the agencies of government are working and they coordinating and I want to assure you that I am on top of it with the public servants and with ministers in the various ministries,” Gonsalves said.
“Yesterday (Monday), the Ministry of Social Development didn’t give the list of the needs of every single individual to the Minister to get it to me, but I am hoping it get it this morning so that we can get everything — because we have to make sure they are comforted in any way and they don’t have any undue difficulties. But we are really being used — all of us who are contributing — as the instrument of God,” he further told the gathering.
“We in the government are here to help. Friends and family and civil society organisations are here to help. And as it tells us, the heavenly father tells us you need them — the food, the clothes, the drink — and it will be provided. I know that with absolutely certainty. I have absolutely no doubt about it, and I want to assure the country that, and, most of all, I want to assure the affected families,” he said.