PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The Trinidad and Tobago government Wednesday brushed aside calls by the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) for a Commission of Inquiry (COI) into its handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Madam Speaker, I am sure at the end of the day, if the opposition continues doing what they are doing now, an inquiry would be required, but in the meantime, the government will not be distracted by demands of that nature which is meant to distract us and disturb what we are doing and to send the wrong impression, Madam Speaker.
‘We will continue to look after the interest and health of the people of Trinidad and Tobago as our (opposition) colleagues continue to undermine it,” Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley told Parliament.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has consistently called for the COI, noting that in the last 16 months, 700 COVID-19 deaths have been recorded here.
“How many more must die before changes are made,” she told the virtual meeting of her party on Monday night, adding, “we have no idea when we can get back to some resemblance of normalcy. While the world opens up, we remain under lockdown”.
Opposition legislators brought the issue into the Parliament, with Dr. Roodal Moonilal asking Prime Minister Rowley whether he is prepared to wait “for another 1,000 people to die before you inquire into the deaths of COVID victims in the health institutions?.
But Rowley responded by reminding the legislators that “I am not the one who told them not to take the vaccine because they are guinea pigs,” a reference to a statement Moonilal had made when the Chinese manufactured Sinopharm vaccine became available here.
“I am inviting the entire population of Trinidad and Tobago to take the vaccine and save their lives,” Rowley said.
But another opposition legislator, Rodney Charles, questioned whether Prime Minister Rowley was “stating that his government will not hold anyone accountable for the mismanagement of the vaccine situation in Trinidad and Tobago and leaving all of us exposed.”
Rowley responded by saying, “if the member believes that by not using hydroxychloroquine…puncheon and rum is a mismanagement of the COVID-19, then so be it.
“If the member believes that by not using sunshine and telling people not to take the vaccine and Madam Speaker telling people not to take the vaccine is mismanagement, then he can do that. As far as we are concerned in Trinidad and Tobago Madam Speaker, we are managing this situation as best we can, and the population does not share the view of the Member for Naparima,” Rowley said, sarcastically referring to the “remedies” that the opposition members had browsed here in the early days of the pandemic.
But, not to be turned off, Charles said that Trinidad and Tobago had the “worst performance in terms of vaccination and testing in the region. Besides Haiti, you are not holding anyone responsible for that situation, Prime Minister.”
Rowley responded by saying, “as soon as the member puts an element of truth before me, I will respond,” adding, “the view of the Member for Naparima is usually at variance with the truth, and today is no different.”