(BROOKLYN, New York): – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley criticized persons whom he said had been spreading rumors that his administration had turned down offers from Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries in the aftermath of the flood situation caused by torrential rains.
“What is wrong with us? When my CARICOM colleagues, all of whom, from Suriname to Jamaica, called to commiserate with us and they said well if you need help we here, it is like somebody saying to you, ‘how you do’ and you start reading out your medical condition and the last visit to the doctor,” Rowley told the audience at a sod turning ceremony for a new health center in Diego Martin.
“These are not questions that require an answer. It wasn’t meant that they were going to hand us a check. It meant they were acknowledging we were in difficulty and they were standing with us firstly in spirit and secondly if physically they could contribute then they would,” Rowley said, adding “we are coping and we are coping very well”.
A follow up statement from the Office of the Prime Minister indicated that Prime Minister Rowley, who was celebrating his 69th birthday, had been contacted by several CARICOM leaders, including Jamaica’s Prime Minister and CARICOM Chairman, Andrew Holness, as well as his colleagues from Barbados, Dominica and Grenada. Rowley also met with Guyana’s President David Granger. Rowley said Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro had also made contact with Port of Spain.
“The regional leaders have expressed their concern for the people of Trinidad and Tobago as we grapple with the effects of the floods due to this unusually protracted period of inclement weather. They have all indicated that they are on standby to assist the people of Trinidad and Tobago in the event that requests for assistance are forthcoming,” Rowley said in the statement.
It said that he expressed thanks to the leaders “and indicated that difficult as it is, we are coping for the moment through Government agency responses and private outpourings from persons across the nation”. The announcement by the Office of the Prime Minister was greeted with criticism in some quarters with the main opposition United National Congress (UNC), through its chairman, David Lee saying that the country should accept any offer of aid given the magnitude of the flood damage.
“If the regional countries are offering assistance in whatever way, we should have gladly accepted because it takes two hands to clap,” Lee told the Trinidad Express newspapers. But Rowley said that he saw nothing wrong in his response to his regional colleagues on their offers.
“Trinidad and Tobago, in the face of great difficulties in the eastern and central part of the country, we are coping and we are coping very well,” he said, adding “there are those who were finding negative things to say in the midst of the disaster”.
“It is easy for persons to criticize and in a moment of triumph where our national spirit rose higher than most had expected…some people will find some way to dim that light.”