#BTColumn – Crying for my beloved country
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of Barbados Today.
through Roderick P Harris
I am wronged. As a vulnerable Barbadian woman with underlying health issues, my life has been put in danger by the stubbornness of this government. While many countries – large and small – have closed their borders to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, this government has done the country an injustice. And, unfortunately, I see no point in shutting it down now that the proverbial horse has run away.
The peak of our tourist season or more to the point that late November, December and January was probably the time when we would have had most visitors from England, in particular, and the United States, seeking to come to the Barbados.
With COVID-19 prevalent in these countries and elsewhere, we had to determine if we had the manpower, facilities and equipment to test, retest, quarantine, or isolate, as large a number of visitors as possible.
Obviously we did not and some people would have entered Barbados without going through all of these stringent and tedious processes of multiple testing and quarantine, and that included returning nationals as well as visitors.
If one person entered Barbados without going through the full range of checks and balances, that was too much.
The safest measure was to go out of business during this time, as Mr Gonsalves of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines admitted he should have done. But we stayed open and played Russian Roulette with Barbadian lives.
What happened now is not the fault of the Barbadians, although I am sure government apologists will try to ignore the real cause of the spread and blame the Bajans.
Visitors to the island today have us in this position and our interaction with them. I am all for tourism and appreciate its importance as a source of foreign exchange. But you can’t sacrifice health for money, especially when you have to take more money and spend it on health.
America has restricted travel to this country. Britain has restricted travel to this country. Here in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago has restricted travel to its country, even for Trinidadians. But Barbados has welcomed COVID-19 with open arms.
The elderly who have contributed so much to this country, and who are now among the most vulnerable, should not now have to tiptoe around a virus, to look around the corners to see if it is approaching, to look over their shoulders to see if he’s following them, just because of a bunch of a few politicians.
When I think of the Barbados companies urging the government not to close our borders and our political leaders bowing down to them, a photo of Prime Minister Mia Mottley pops into my mind at a fire hydrant with a bucket full of holes. at the bottom and trying to catch the water. And since the water is draining through the holes, his remedy for solving the problem is to open the hose to all. Patch the damn bucket or change it!
I have said it before and I will say it again, I have supported the Barbados Labor Party all my life. But I love my country more than any party and if I have to criticize this administration, I do so constructively and without any nastiness.
I would have liked it to have been possible to poll the other 28 members of the government and see if any of them had a different opinion than the leader on how she weighed the balance between the economy and health of Barbadians. Whenever decisions of this nature are made – whether to close the borders or not – great attention needs to be paid to the fact that Barbados is tiny where people fundamentally stumble over each other.
Social distancing isn’t easy in an area of 166 square miles and a population of around 290,000. Add to that a wave of English people pregnant with alcohol and beer, and the chances of social distancing drop dramatically.
What also puzzles me, in terms of decision making in this tourism industry, is that we had an excellent Minister of Tourism in Kerrie Symmonds who, in addition to doing a great job, seemed to have the gut courage to speak out. on national issues.
I remember him a few years ago when the party was in opposition and he had to put Miss Mottley in his place. We need politicians ready to confront their leaders on issues of conscience and national importance.
Politicians must be able to see the greater good and offer honest opinions, whether their leaders want it or not. Not just “Yes, Prime Minister, Yes, Prime Minister, Yes, Prime Minister” – this is not a British sitcom, it is the life of Barbados that is at stake.
Miss Mottley coined the phrase “the lost decade” in reference to the tenure of the group of incompetents replaced by her government, but she must be thankful that this decade produced the Best-dos Santos lab or we would be in more danger. I wish the government the best of luck, but repeatedly saying to the Bajans “this is who we are” will not solve the COVID-19 crisis.
Roderick P Harris is a regular contributor on National Affairs. This guest column was offered as a letter to the editor.