Opposition lawmaker St. Clair Leacock says that the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been “piss poor” in its handling of the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You listen to the world news… we don’t know how long the pandemic will last — four months, six months, eight months, or a year and a half. We’re still at the stage where we are deciding if carnival can take place … in June. It is obvious in terms of what’s happening all around us, we can’t have carnival,” Leacock, who is a vice-president of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) said on Boom FM on Monday.
“Look at how wrong we have been,” he said as he urged people to listen to his comments and to forget about politics.
“We were contemplating giving discounts for Vincentians to travel to neighbouring islands when the neighbouring islands are contemplating closing their borders, closing down their national airlines, closing their airports closing their seaports, and we were offering people to get a ticket to go to these islands, [that were] closing their doors on us.”
He was referring to an idea that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves floated two weeks ago that his government would halve departure taxes for CARICOM nationals and encouraged the region to do likewise.
Gonsalves’ idea was that intra-regional travel could help to soften the impact of declining international arrivals amidst the pandemic.
“Look what happened two weeks ago; we are sending 19 nurses to England where they have acute shortage of people on the frontline when it’s at the very time we would need more people here on our frontline and you know what we do? We go and borrow two from Cuba and a doctor, where we had our own and could say, ‘Boy, you see this, we can’t send out anybody now.’”
Last Monday, 13 Vincentian nurses left to take up positions in the United Kingdom as part of a deal struck before the coronavirus began affecting either nation directly.
“In America they are taking pre-med students and sending them out to work as if they are doctors because they see the shortage on hand.
“That’s the difference. Look at how we are going in the wrong direction. It’s a serious indictment… Come on. Come on. There’s a bigger picture; a serious indictment. That’s not for the major. That’s for the Prime Minister,” Leacock said, referring to himself by his military title and nickname.
He said there had been joint meetings and press conferences between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, in St. Lucia.
“All over the world, they’re having closed ranks between both sides of the house. In America, the Republicans and Democrats are doing that… Why is it that the sickness could be so strong and compelling around the world, but not us in St. Vincent…?” Leacock said.
On Saturday, Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday wrote to Gonsalves formally offering to partner with the government in responding to the pandemic.
On Monday, Gonsalves said on Star FM, his party’s radio station, that he would meet at “an appropriate time sometime this week” with the opposition.
The meeting is expected to take place before Thursday’s meeting of Parliament.
On Tuesday, the Office of the Prime Minister announced a national address by Gonsalves for 8 p.m. Wednesday.