By A Concerned Citizen
Once upon a time, in SVG, the main philosophy held by the community was that “it takes a village to raise a child”. This philosophy was manifested in a general level of love and togetherness for our fellow human beings, and the way we looked out for each other. We were truly “our brother’s keeper”.
I cannot pinpoint exactly when this belief began to change. However, today, what we are witnessing within our society is an attitude of divisiveness, vindictiveness, spite and a lack of empathy for each other. The issue of whether to vaccinate or not has brought all of this ugly and vicious thinking to the fore. SVG has never been this way! Hello… we were often referred to as “Home of the Blessed” and seen as a caring community. One may ask, if this is who we were, then why are we now in a situation of “us versus them”? Vaccinated versus unvaccinated?
Truth be told, this divisiveness is an issue which has been allowed to fester over the years. Many supporters of the ruling party have blindly condoned all of the subtle manipulations by this present administration to divide and rule. Is this an example where the mouth is muzzled by the food it eats? It would seem that many have sold their integrity to cling to the “gravy train” for personal benefits such as contracts, scholarships or other hand-outs.
Presently, in SVG, the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in an artificial divide being manufactured between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Citizens are not afforded the democratic freedom to express a dissenting view against the Government of SVG. The political directorate has employed a strategy to vilify persons and shame them into taking the vaccine. Having failed in that strategy, they have amended the law to make vaccines mandatory. This heavy-handed approach has been totally ineffective and has fuelled a popular people’s resistance against what appears to be attempts to encroach on constitutional freedoms.
The authorities seem to be “stabbing themselves in the foot”, as it relates to the management of the COVID crisis. Recently, unvaccinated Members of Parliament were required to present the results of a negative PCR test to the Speaker, wear double masks (the outer one must be black) and stand in a booth to speak. While the vaccinated, presumably the government MPs, were allowed to speak at their seats without a mask. Considering that it is known that vaccinated and unvaccinated can be carriers, and can infect others with the virus, it does appear that this action was not done in good faith and was a clear attempt to name and shame some parliamentarians. Are we still in the era of Hitler’s Germany, where the Jews were asked to wear a yellow star on their clothing, making them a target of persecution? Come on, we need to do better than this.
What is needed is a robust national campaign that provides valid information to the general public on the pros and cons of taking the vaccine, and ways the country can benefit going forward. This must be a unified approach involving government, the opposition, and civil society organisations. The battle against COVID-19 must be an all hands on deck exercise. It will never be won with a big stick, coercion and a massa big boss approach. This will only serve to alienate the larger sector of the population, the majority. This is largely seen in the current level of vaccination in the country. Alas, sadly, due to the intransigence of the government, many of our fellow citizens may end up getting seriously ill and losing their lives.
I have spoken to a number of people personally, and have come to the realisation that the challenge in most cases is that they lack the necessary information in order to make an informed decision. Many are bombarded with misinformation and disinformation. The Ministry of Health should be more proactive in debunking some of these ludicrous stories through an effective education campaign to encourage more persons to take the vaccine. Speeding through a village with a microphone mounted on a truck like a thief in the night will not work. People must be given the opportunity to express their concerns and fears without being vilified. Why can’t we take advantage of more efficient and effective available media to communicate valid information?
We are indeed facing a national crisis which demands a unified approach. It is one that requires “All hands on deck! Not us versus them!
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].