There will be no Village Dog Fight!
While we are trying to understand this still-new virus COVID -19 we have to confront a crisis in leadership. In past crises, health or otherwise, we always looked to America to take the lead in a global effort to confront it.
Today that country is led by an individual whose motto is America first and to hell with the others, although not even America can proceed without the rest of the world. Anyone who at this crucial time could even think of cutting funds from the WHO has got to be Mad. And there are Americans who are supporting this absurdity. Having first blamed Obama for all his failings he is now holding on to the WHO and some so-called conspiracy with China. But it is the same Trump who initially praised the Chinese president’s handling of the crisis. It is the same Trump who was given information in early January and described it all as a hoax, as false news and as propaganda by the Democratic party.
He assured Americans that all will be right. He urged them to go out to work and failed to act. The real test of a leader is how he performs in a crisis.
Well, so much for Trump. In the region we are having what is described as not a “village dog fight” between two leaders of neighbouring countries. The Grenadian PM objected to what appeared to him to be a call by our PM to defy the laws of his country and to encourage continuing trade between sister islands of the Grenadines, administered by separate countries. Given the restrictions Grenada had put in place I could understand Mitchell’s concern, because his first duty is the protection of the citizens of his country. I have not read Dr Gonsalves response fully, but he seems to be suggesting according to one media source that Mitchell was “wrongly advised or badly informed”. I thought that Gonsalves initial reference to Grenada’s Grenadine islands was very loose. I am not sure what it was intended to do, but if PM Gonsalves was interested in helping those islands then a simple call to Mitchell might have sufficed, although there was no indication that they were short of supplies, unlike our Grenadine islands that are crying for water.
It is true that while Grenada had put strict regulations in place, we were very loose leaving it up to the people to act responsibly. In a crisis like this communication is critical. There should be no loose talk since anything said is going to be taken seriously and people have to be clear about what is being done and what is intended. This is one of our major failures. We have been doing almost the opposite to what other countries have been doing. Good for that, but let us know why. It has left everyone guessing, especially when we hear about the regulations being put in place not only in the region, but globally. So, there is confusion. To leave it up to the understanding and responsibility of individuals to do what is right is not the way to go. Also, examples need to be set. I was appalled when I saw our PM going to the plane from Venezuela to help to take out the test kits supplied to us. Why was it necessary for the Prime Minister to be doing that? Additionally, he was not masked, and physical distancing was certainly not being observed. What our PM should realise is that people look to him for guidance, willing to follow his example. To destroy this is to destroy people’s trust. I must also repeat what I said in an earlier column. While the CMO was stressing social distancing, our PM was not inclined to do so. How is one expected to interpret this?
Additionally, communication has to be regular and clear, for failing that rumours will spread, as happened with the boxes we got from Venezuela that seemed to show that time had expired for what was in those boxes. You cannot blame people for commenting on that. Very early an explanation should have been given. Our public needs reassurance.
National cooperation is needed and on this score the Government has to take a lead, especially in a country which is split almost in the middle. The Dominican Director of PAHO has warned that COVID—19 “has not yet hit the region with full force”. Let us hope this is ‘Over speak’, because we have not been handling it very well as it is in its mildest form here. As I write this column, CARICOM is meeting virtually. We await their release. I know for sure there will be no Village Dog Fight!
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian