(St. Lucia News Online) — Parliamentary Representative for Laborie/Augier Alva Baptiste believes the United Workers Party (UWP) administration led by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has failed in its handling of the shutdown of the country, however, despite this, he advised that “staying home” is one of the best ways to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
“While the Allen Chastanet-led UWP Administration has ‘tested positive’ for handling the lockdown badly, and in a most confused manner. And while many Saint Lucians are accusing the prime minister and his ministers of disgusting and dishonest politicking during this national crisis, I am, however, asking my constituents of Laborie/Augier and every Saint Lucian, to stay home, as far as practicable, in an effort to minimize infection and transmission of COVID-19, and in order to save our lives,” Baptiste said in an April 6 Facebook post.
The former minister of foreign affairs, external trade, and civil aviation under the opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party, called on Saint Lucians to desist from using the Easter season to “engage in behaviours that will accelerate the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus”.
Below is the remainder of his Facebook statement:
We are confronted with a common deadly enemy, which requires a united response: a response by all of us. Because the alternatives are:
• To continue community spread, which would quickly overwhelm our healthcare system, and a healthcare framework, which has more underlying medical conditions than the patients who are infected with the COVID-19 virus. To place my point into sharper focus, I state categorically that even developed countries like the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (USA), with better-equipped health care systems, are struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic;
• The more persons in Saint Lucia who are infected with the COVID-19 virus, the more people who would require hospitalization and critical care, including being on ventilators. The approximately nine ventilators on the island will simply not suffice in an environment of massive community spread;
• Hand-in-hand with this point is the painful possibility of forcing doctors and nurses to determine who lives and who dies during massive community spread. For example, if all ventilators are in use and our loved-ones require critical care, do you remove from a ventilator an elderly patient with underlying conditions, who may well survive the ordeal, to give it to a relatively younger patient, who may still die? The only way to avoid this unhealthy scenario is to STAY HOME, as far as practicable; observe physical distancing, practice proper hygiene and adhere to the health protocols that are in place. By STAYING HOME and obeying the health protocols we will as a country:
• Limit infections, consequently, lowering the probability for hospitalization and critical care, hence, obviating the necessity for procuring additional ventilators for the specific purpose of coping with the health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic;
• Overcome the challenges of COVID-19 early, thereby, placing Saint Lucia in a better position for economic recovery. For example, if we recover from COVID-19 much earlier than our tourism source markets, it places Saint Lucia in an excellent position to begin the process of putting Saint Lucians back to work in at least the hotel sector, tourism services and the air transport system. If our source tourism markets and trading partners have resolved their COVID-19 challenges and are open for business, while Saint Lucia is still immersed in trying to rid itself of the pandemic, this will be disastrous for our country, hence, we must stop it now together;
• Minimize the lingering effects of the COVID-19 virus. Given the novelty of the COVID-19 virus, we are unsure whether it will leave those affected more vulnerable to emerging or reemerging infectious diseases. Relatedly, given the contemporary nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is perhaps still quite difficult to fully measure its global consequences, especially on small, open and vulnerable economies like Saint Lucia. In fact, many longer-term consequences may not even have emerged or developed as yet. Therefore, we should be prepared to use our experts, including Saint Lucians at home and abroad, to conduct a preliminary assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic’s present and projected impact on Saint Lucia.
The issues of COVID-19 have received much public ventilation and the conditions appear pregnant for a new discourse on the way forward for Saint Lucia. Because in the aftermath of COVID-19, the demand for social, economic and political reform would be even greater, as countries come under pressure to pursue austerity measures, but still deliver government services. Recovery as a country will require a different social dynamic, a more transparent economic dialectic, and a new emergent political ethic, to mobilize change. This new discourse would ensure that social, economic, environmental, trade, energy, and fiscal policies are carefully calibrated to induce development, which is sustainable.
During this period we must undergo a deep examination of what constitutes effective reform, and in this regard, a focus on meaningful change, with an emphasis on national traditions, capacities, and needs, which calls for a genuine and legitimate engagement with the wider Saint Lucian society.
Time will carve out an opportunity for honest debate on this extraordinary experience, by the people of Saint Lucia, both at home and abroad. Further, as elected representatives, and in keeping with our primary functions as parliamentarians: “to make and change laws (legislation); acting on behalf of voters and citizens and debate the major issues of the day (representation); to check and challenge the work of the government (scrutiny); debate the economic policies of the government and to check and approve government spending (budget and taxes).”
God willing, we will have an opportunity to subject this experience and other pertinent issues to new levels of critical examination.
The Opposition’s calls for national unity in fighting COVID-19, in no way precludes its parliamentarians from continuing to fulfil their constitutional duties in this national emergency when all hands should be on deck. Hence, in unhesitating obedience to what is deemed our constitutional duty, we are going to continue to give careful and sensible treatment to the spectrum of issues that are important to the welfare and well-being of Saint Lucians, in navigating the turbulence of this global pandemic.
I will not fault anyone who may view the voicing of our concerns at this time, however constructive, as a symptom of ‘playing politics’. But while the COVID-19 virus shares similar symptoms with other viral infections, a differential diagnosis will clearly reveal the real culprit. In a similar fashion, if a differential diagnosis is done in our case, it would be clearly understood, that advocating for the food packages/supplies currently being distributed, and other support packages being contemplated; to focus first on the most vulnerable and hardest hit Saint Lucians; is in keeping with the fulfillment of our constitutional duties as parliamentarians, and is clearly symptomatic of adherence to our Party’s fundamental principles of Bread, Justice and Freedom for all Saint Lucians.
Like our heroes (doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers, police officers, fire officers, volunteers, and many others), who risk their lives daily on the front line to treat and save our fellow Saint Lucians from the COVID-19 virus, which debilitates and kills, we the parliamentarians of the Opposition, as elected representatives of the people, will participate in that risk, to be on the front line, dealing with the additional abusive virus of propaganda, in responding to the needs of our country, and giving a voice to those who speak without words and look up to us for compassion and relief.
Having witnessed, publicly, those who display symptoms of ‘playing politics’, even at this time, I am appealing to my constituents and fellow Saint Lucians to adhere to the period of national quarantine and to observe the health protocols and others measures that are in place and recommended, for the common good and national interest. Let us utilize this period of quarantine for mature reflection on how best to emerge from this uncertainty and challenge, more united on the national priorities, which we agreed to in our national consultations on the Sustainable Development Goals. Those national priorities include health and wellness; education; poverty reduction and social inclusion; sustainable agriculture and food security; sustainable development; economic resilience; and inclusive-led growth.
Given that we are currently in the period, when we commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ – the Prince-of-Peace – let us resurrect all the Saint Lucian values, which were the glue that kept the moral, social, and economic fabric of our country together. When nurtured and not abused, this fabric never got torn in the worst of global storms. At this time, let us cover ourselves with this fabric of national unity and resilience for protection against the COVID-19 virus. Fellow Saint Lucians, please DO NOT use the Easter season to engage in behaviours that will accelerate the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.