Castries, Saint Lucia, Sunday October 17, 2021:– As with almost everything else, Saint Lucians are responding differently to the government’s latest high-profile appointment to a public post, some welcoming appointment of the new head of the National COVID-19 Management Center, others simply dismissing it.
On Friday (15th October), a press release announced that “Consistent with the Government’s mandate for a more inclusive and depoliticized advisory body on the management of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cabinet had appointed Development Planner Cletus Springer to chair the new center.
The appointment was made “pursuant to the COVID19 Prevention and Control Act” and Springer was introduced as “a national, regional and international professional” who “brings to the Centre his experience in public sector management, environmental health, sustainable development and communications.”
The Centre will also include representatives from: Government Information Service (GIS), Trade Union Federation (TUF), Saint Lucia Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA) and Saint Lucia Hospitality and Tourism Association (SLHTA), as well as “a representative of the youth” and “other persons approved by Cabinet.”
The announcement was welcomed by some who’ve worked with Springer in government jobs here.
One former Cabinet Secretary told Saint Lucia News Online (SLNO) yesterday morning (Saturday), “Springer’s long experience and wide range of connections in CARICOM and The Americas will help bring a global perspective to its functions and the search for solutions.”
He added, “Cletus can also bring some weight to the government’s plans for vaccine diplomacy or seeking assistance from other countries and entities or connecting with the existing regional and international health institutions, such as PAHO (Pan American Health Organization), CARPHA (Caribbean Public Health Agency) and the WHO (World Health Organization.”
But another former public service colleague offered SLNO a very different view of the same man.
An ex-Permanent Secretary in a ministry Springer served for a long time says, “Cletus always means well, but he’s too much of a classic careful bureaucrat; and with COVID-19 requiring urgent and creative, even innovative responses, I don’t think he’s the man for that role…”
Those who don’t know Springer at all have also responded differently, some saying “He’s not even a doctor…” and others responding “Give the man a chance…”
Springer not being a doctor (or exclusive health sector professional) is also being seized-upon by those who claim the government said it removed the requirement for “a politician” to head the center to enable it to appoint a health professional.
One absolute critic of the appointment even argues that Springer is “not sufficiently fluent in creole to take the COVID messaging beyond the normal communications borders…”
But those willing to “give him a chance” say he’ll chair a committee that will include “a wide range of other professionals fluent in Kweyol”.
One also points (in response) to Springer also having “a record of association with the local media in earlier and more active years.”
Another soulmate says, “I went to school with him and the prime minister, so I can understand why we should give him a chance…
“I also follow him on Social Media all the time and he is very much in tune with what’s happening in our corner of the world…”
A former St. Mary’s College (SMC) student and university graduate, Springer does have the credentials to head the center – something both admirers and critics will agree, even while disagreeing on the suitability of his personality.
“We just have to give him the chance and judge him by his actions and the results, especially as there’s no available Operations Manual on How to Fight and Defeat COVID,” says the ex-Cabinet Secretary.
Meanwhile, the government is promising to provide needed resources for the effective operation of the new center, which will replace the “Command Center” established by the previous administration in 2020, headed by ex-Tourism Minister Dominic Fedee.
The press release ending saying the Government “remains committed to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to ensure that resources are made available for its effective management.”