Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, is accusing the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) of being forked-tongued on the COVID-19 vaccination issue.
The NDP says that it supports vaccination but is opposed to mandatory vaccination, saying that the government should, instead, convince people to take the jab.
Opposition Leader Godwin Friday and his family were among the first batch of persons to take the jab when it became available in February, and has since been urging members of the public to do likewise, notwithstanding his stance against mandatory vaccination.
Gonsalves said he was heartened when he read comments by West Kingstown MP, Daniel Cummings, who is chair go the NDP, “that sounded fairly forthright in support of the vaccination.
“I understand that the Member for Central Kingstown St. Clair Leacock has also been fairly forthright in support of the vaccination,” he said of another opposition lawmaker, who is also a vice-president of the NDP.
“But beyond the words, now we need some deeds,” Gonsalves said. “And, and I think that that party has not been speaking with one voice.”
Gonsalves said he knows that NDP founder, former prime minister Sir James Mitchell “has also been fairly strong in favour of vaccination, but others have not been.
“And other voices on their own radio station have been sending mixed messages about the vaccine. And they have been participating in mass gatherings where people are not vaccinated or not masked, and that sends another message as well.
“So we would hope, very sincerely, that everybody can get involved in this vaccination effort. I really don’t see it as a political issue. I hate to hear when people bring Labour or NDP into the vaccine conversation,” the finance minister said.
He said that in the United States there is a link between political affiliation and vaccination, where vaccination among Democrats is higher than among Republicans.
“And it seems to be some point of political pride, where some people either vaccinate or don’t vaccinate based on the party they support. I think that’s really a counterproductive approach to this effort.”
He said that his Unity Labour Party is a democratic socialist party.
“And the socialist part of that is that we believe in the collective good. And we believe that individuals must recognise that sometimes they have to make efforts and sacrifices for the benefit of society overall. And I think if we tamp down a little bit on this, feeling that everybody is an individual, and people somehow stand separate from society, and what happens to them is separate from what happens to the country, if we can get back to a communal sense that all of us are in this thing together.
“And we have to be our brother’s keeper, and we have to be our neighbours’ keeper. I think if we get back to that sense, everybody will be speaking on the same side of this vaccine issue. And I think that’s what we need,” the finance minister said.