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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (File photo)
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (File photo)
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By Nathan “Jolly” Green

There are 300 Vincentian professional seamen caught up in the coronavirus pandemic.

Their employers have been housing them on cruise ships, and the men and women want to go home to St. Vincent. The employers have stated their willingness to get them, at the company’s cost, back to St. Vincent. Surely, at that moment of stepping on Vincentian soil, they are the responsibility of the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. How can the cruise companies be responsible from there on for the keeping of these people in quarantine in SVG?

Getting them home is undoubtedly the responsibility of the ship companies, and they are good enough to arrange and fund that. They gave our people jobs, and in most cases, good, well-paid jobs. They have allowed them to stay onboard company ships in the best of their accommodation, staterooms even. They have fed them three square meals a day and snacks and drinks in between.

Asking the cruise ship companies to pay for these Vincentians to stay in quarantine in SVG is little more than blackmail. The danger is the government’s behaviour in this matter will more than likely exclude these sailors from ever working for the cruise employers again.

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My mind goes back to how the most prestigious medical school in the Caribbean, St. Georges, perhaps the hemisphere were driven out of SVG by this very same government. Eventually replaced by three lower-rated schools, of which the student spending power on the island is a fraction of what the St. Georges students possessed. The short-sightedness of this government, or is it one man who seems to stagger from crisis to crisis, is amazing.

The real problem is that SVG is broke; they cannot afford to pay for anything. Yet somehow or other, they will be able to give away $20 million in building materials to their supporters before this year’s election. Paying for these people to stay in quarantine is only around $1 million.

The government is taking on weekly basis money from countries and organisations well more than this amount.

What government in the world demands that their citizens returning can only do so if they have a certificate of health from a proper chartered authority? That is the most unreasonable thing I have ever heard.  These people have subscribed multi-millions over the years to their families and the state of SVG. Whatever you wish to do when they get here is one thing, but saying they cannot come home without a certificate, to a country in which they are part owners, is disgusting. The ship-owners will be afraid to bring them in case they are denied entry.

Even the humblest man in the street knows right from wrong, but it seems, not our prime minister.

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

13 replies on “Come on, Comrade. Stop being unreasonable”

  1. I agree! These companies are going more than the extra mile to accommodate our people. The least we can do is what is reasonable. If the positions were somehow reversed I wonder if our PM would want to pay for two weeks of quarantine for 300 foreigners in a foreign country. What if we had 5 weeks of quarantine? Would he demand they pay for it for that long? These seamen want to get home and this payment demand is an unreasonable blockage that does not need to be.
    I do however, applaud the PM for being more frugal lately, and watching the spending. I hope his attempt at being more frugal now, is not a sign of saving now, so that vast sums of OUR money will instead be passed-out closer to the election.
    I wish that instead the government would completely revisit our economic and financial policies and craft a system that fits the country and its people in its entirety instead of fitting just the government.

  2. Sociologist and International Relations specialist. says:

    This is purely a humanitarian crises and their human rights should not be negotiated. They have a right to be in their home country….and it is the government’s responsibility once they have arrived on vincentian soil to ensure their mental, social and physical health and well being. This would be a crime against humanity if our government refuse to look out for its citizens….

  3. The company might not even take us back after all this, seeing the stress and expense they will experience if something like this or worse happen again.

  4. I think this response will affect the future relationship between these companies and the island.They just won’t employ from SVG anymore,and who can blame them really. vincentians are decided that’s why things like this go on, everything becomes political,all about what party who supports instead of human rights/Vincentian Rights.

  5. Fidus Achates says:

    This is the best piece I read so far on the account of the Sailors.It’s very credible.Now let me say this if the PM have a hidden agenda on this we won’t know maybe he does?????.I would like to know why now he’s come up with such controversial demands which some aren’t necessary.I hope he can do the Sailors a favor and stop with this nonsense.He brags and boast about having so much money to do so many unnecessary things.Now it’s time for him to look out for his own people who he pretends to car so much is losing it big time.It’s heart broken for the families to see their beloved ones go through this and all because of the PM unmovable stance on the issue.I hope the families of these Sailors are taking notes because if it leaves to the PM the Sailors won’t come home based on his so call protocols.

  6. Francis Bowman says:

    These people have been on ships for so many months without any symptoms that it is unlikely that they are infected. Request the ship owners to pay for the 300 test kits and have them tested as they arrive. In the unlikely event that one or two are positive then they should be quarantined. Most likely their employers will agree to such an arrangement, if not the sailors themselves may even agree to meet the cost of a test kit of say $500. to be with their loved ones rather than spending 14 days Quarantine.


  7. New clear boundaries need to be reintroduced. With decent upright politicians who follow through when standards aren’t met.

    That’s where political courage comes in: genuine efforts to identify and address lapses? Making it clear that we the people actually want to know when standards aren’t met – and creating safe avenues for people to be able to speak out and write when they aren’t?

    To make this work, we need fool-proof systems that cannot be overridden by individuals or family dynasties just because they hold a position of power, or because they are ‘well-liked by those receiving their favour’.

    Do we have ruling party politicians with the ‘ethical intelligence’ who work through inconsistencies between principles and behaviours?

    A current false value that includes the words integrity and decency from the present regime is not enough. There are too many falsities and misrepresentations.

    We need to ensure that our leadership does what is right and reject that which is wrong. The only way to do that is to rid ourselves of the current bunch whenever the opportunity arises.

    How can anyone close the door to our country to returning Vincentians in distress?

    We have Vincentian students in places where they are terrified of the coronavirus, where there are shortages of all kinds, including food. They want to come home but will lose their degrees and grades if they come back before the course end.

    We have sailors and technicians who are barred from coming home because unreasonable demands are made on them, perhaps designed to make them stay where they are.

    It seems as if the only sane politician at the moment is the honourable Dr. Godwin Friday. Read what he says and chew on every word, because there is the correct path, the only way that leads to doing the right thing for the abandoned citizens in distress.

    I believe the Ralph Gonsalves government is not doing the right thing, allowing our students to go hungry in Cuba; because he says the Cubans are touchy about us helping in such matters. So what, if they cannot feed their own people that is of their own consequence, and no reason why we should not ensure our own students are not starved. If there is a conflict with Cubans being able to ensure our students are properly fed, then bring our students home.

  8. Kerisa stephenson says:

    That is why I appreciate the media, even more so this medium. Few weeks ago the Government went to parliament for a loan approval of 75 million, the loan was granted with the understanding that the funds will be utilised to handle challenges of COVID-19. The reasoning is, is this not a challenge arising as a result of the said pandemic? The authorities expressed that the cost to quarantine the sailors will be about 1.5 million, there about. Lets do the Maths, it won’t leave the government short handed if the 1.5 mil is taken from the sum of 75 mil, or is it that we are still allowing this same person to do the Maths for us again, who told us 7 is more than 10. Vincentians are the one who will repay this loan, the sailors pay taxes as well, after we were told ” citizenship should acvount for something ” put the money where the pain is. This is a test of leadership let’s see how this one pans out. May God bless us all even during this time.

    1. Kerisa there is an easier way of funding the whole thing. Simply decide that these returnees are more important than being re-elected and don’t give away the $20 million in building materials to the ULP voters before the election this year.

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