By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” Aug. 12, 2022)
Emotional and psychological abuse is a good and proper basis upon which one petitions a court for a permanent separation from an abusive spouse. It will be difficult for the ULP government to rebut the presumption that its relationship with the majority of Vincentians has broken down irretrievably. All that is left now is for the people to summon the courage to act decisively to end a rapidly deteriorating mental health crisis that this government seems hell-bent on imposing on the nation.
If you are still in doubt, look no further than the memorandum issued by the Ministry of Health on Aug. 5, 2022. Captioned “employment of health care workers-Covid-19 vaccination”, the memo disclosed that “cabinet directed that all health care workers must be vaccinated against the coronavirus disease and must receive boosters at five-month intervals after an initial two-dose series of an approved vaccine, to be eligible for employment in the health sector”.
The memo, which met with a firestorm of protest, was roundly rejected by the population. The government realised that it had a public relations nightmare on its hands and tried in vain to engage in damage control. At a hastily arranged press conference last Tuesday, acting PM Montgomery Daniel, Finance minister Camillo Gonsalves, Health minister Jimmy Prince and his PS Cuthbert Knights offered explanations as to the meaning of the memo.
Knights, under whose signature the memo was issued, was deadening in his silence. He never took the microphone to disclose why his memo did not capture what the government intended to say on the vaccine issue. Clearly, the government’s denials make Knights the fall guy for its deflated trial balloon.
Most significantly, neither acting PM Daniel, Finance Minister Gonsalves or Health minister Prince disclosed the information government intended to convey to the public. It is fair to conclude that the government ministers were being disingenuous at best and complicit in the aggravation of the mental health crisis that has roiled this nation since it callously imposed the COVID vaccine mandate on the people last December.
Camillo Gonsalves claimed that the memo resulted from “a mistranscribed note from Cabinet”. He noted that when the memo became public on Monday, “Cabinet members were all texting each other, trying to figure out when the decision was made”. He offered no apology for the confusion and nerve-racking impact of his government’s misstep.
Health Minister Jimmy Prince: “I apologise for the anxiety caused by the memo among health care workers, but that was not the intention of Cabinet.” Referring to mandatory boosters, Prince remarked ominously, “we would not go down that road immediately … we have not decided that we should have mandatory boosters for health care workers”. Clearly, they are still considering imposing a vaccination regime in the face of factual and scientific evidence that the vaccine is highly ineffective and its safety is questionable. In the face of the overwhelming evidence, the government of SVG cannot maintain that there has been no harm done to persons who took the jab.
Acting PM Daniel was most revealing in his comments. Daniel noted that a Cabinet meeting dealt specifically with the vaccine issue. This meeting was held before PM Gonsalves left for Taiwan. “I am sure the PM will be most shocked to hear that the decision that has gone out is not what was fully captured in the Cabinet.”
Mr. “What Can Us Do” ought to know that Vincentians couldn’t care less of the PM’s state of mind when he heard of the memo. More important for his audience was what Gonsalves and his Cabinet decided to impose on the population before he travelled. The decision remains a mystery.
We may have to go back to July 28 to determine what the memo intended to convey. Speaking at an event to launch the Volcano Eruption Emergency Project, PM Gonsalves disclosed that “any new persons entering [the service] would have to be fully vaccinated and boosted”.
What in heaven’s name is meant by fully vaccinated and boosted? We know the vaccines are highly ineffective, practically useless and adversely impact people’s health. We don’t even know if what passes for a booster shot here is just another shot of the vaccine or an actual new medication intended to shore up what had proven to be of no benefit to those who took the vaccines.
Under the unrelenting pressure of the people, coupled with its inability to deny that the facts and science of COVID vaccines are not its allies, the government has been going “hither, thither, and yon”, scrambling to find its way and reconnect with the citizenry.
On Aug. 8, a press release issued by the Ministry of Education seemed to have stepped back from the view that workers who refused to take the vaccine and were dismissed from their jobs abandoned their positions. The ministry’s release said “educators and ancillary staff who were employed by the state and subsequently became disengaged due to the government’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate can now reapply for employment”. This idea of disengagement seems to align with the Teachers’ Union, which has long called for reinstatement with all the benefits. As the union maintained, teachers were always willing and ready to work. It was the government that made it a criminal offence for them to be present at their place of employment.
As the trial on its COVID mandate, set for Nov. 29, draws nearer, the government is responding to the fact that its chances of success grow dimmer. Try as it might, it appears that that government’s chance of regaining the people’s confidence is irretrievably lost.
From its callous attempt to economically assassinate workers with the “No Jab, no job policy”, to its bullying of sanitation workers and workers at statutory corporations to take the injection by arbitrarily designating them as front-line workers, to its admission that sanitation workers were improperly fired or pressured into taking the vaccine, and its hastily retracted edict to health care workers, this government acts as though it was elected to serve as overseers on a plantation rather than rule with the consent of the governed.
Gonsalves must not only apologise to the country. He must realise that the time has come for Pharoah Gonsalves and his clansmen to let our people go.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
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