Lead, Don’t Plead

Dear Mr. Prime Minister, this newspaper has been relatively silent on the policies adopted by your Government in its management of the COVID pandemic for the dual reasons that your government deserved a sensible period of time to ‘get its feet under the desk’ and, secondly, whilst we may not have agreed initially with your policy of persuasion, we did not have the arrogance to believe that we had a monopoly on determining the right way forward to fight the pandemic.

If we might echo and repeat your words uttered in September of this year “I am not a Prime Minister that says ‘I know everything – I will do everything’. I don’t know everything, I will not know everything, I will not pretend to know everything. I am going to listen to what the people who know better than me tell me.  I have never said what to do as far as protocols are concerned – never. All the protocols have been determined, have been agreed to, have been advised on by the medical professionals – not me. I am not a doctor.”  We held out tongue at that time, notwithstanding that we thought that there was an essential lacuna in the expression of your policy.  Undoubtedly, all decisions in this area must be informed by science; but surely not by science alone. Science will provide data, and, to a certain extent identify options for the future. In the end, however, it is a political decision which option, options or combination of options best fit the overall circumstance of the country. The need to balance between lives and livelihoods is essentially a political exercise.

Earlier this week Mr. Cletus Springer, head of the COVID Management Centre, and Dr. Belmar George, Chief Medical Officer, have both warned that all the signs are present that St. Lucia is about to enter (or maybe has entered) the fifth wave of the pandemic. Should they be correct, then a number of potential ills may befall our Country. Firstly, and most obviously, our people will get sick, some not so sick, some very sick and some will die. Secondly, the doctors and nurses and other allied front-line staff will once again be called upon to exert almost super-human efforts to treat the ill. Thirdly, productivity in the country will fall as a result of persons being unable to work by virtue of being ill or being in isolation. Fourthly, should it be perceived by those countries from whence we derive our tourists, especially the cruise visitors, that St. Lucia is sufficiently contaminated that we are put on the red list, or its equivalent, then the return to economic normality will no longer be a decision we make, but one that will be made for us.

When you assumed office, one of your first statements on the subject of the pandemic was that your government would pursue the course of persuasion of the populace to exercise self-discipline and conform to the protocols as issued from time to time by the Government. You stated that your government would not mandate vaccinations, but rely on the intelligence of our people to act in their best interests and voluntarily seek vaccinations. As a corollary to your faith in our people, breach of protocols were, to all intents and purposes, decriminalized.

With great respect, Mr. Prime Minister, we regret to suggest that your faith that self-interest would lead our population as a whole to act responsibly and follow the protocols was misplaced. Social media is replete with evidence of Bacchanalia in full swing.

The time has surely come to apply strong measures of discipline in the interests of the people. Earlier this year, the people of this country gave you a resounding mandate. That mandate was not to seek further popularity, but rather to govern in the best interests of all of the people.

Mr. Prime Minister, the time for pleading is over. The time for leading is now.

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