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Disaster relief and political responsibility

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The regional and international communities have been rallying to the assistance of the hurricane-stricken islands in the Eastern Caribbean, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Mobilising such support is no easy feat in today’s world. The global economic crisis of the last two years has put even the mightiest economies under strain. In addition, the dominant philosophy in the world today spares little room for the plight of small, underdeveloped countries like ours, especially when our lifestyles, which belie our economic reality, are taken into consideration.{{more}}

In humanitarian terms, we consider the ravages of Tomas a major disaster, but what we have gone through, pales in significance in comparison with other disaster-stricken areas. How, for instance do you put St. Vincent or St. Lucia, alongside long-suffering Haiti? Or take Indonesia as another example, hit by a tsunami, volcano and earthquake all in the space of a week or so. The same sources of support that we try to tap into, are the very ones from which such countries, with millions, not thousands, at risk, must approach.

It is important that we understand this if we are truly to appreciate every little bit of help that arrives on our shores. Every dollar donated, each tin of milk, sheet of galvanize or plank of lumber that we receive, is one less for some other unfortunate victim. Thus it is of paramount importance that we value whatever we get in terms of relief and recovery assistance and seek to utilize it to its fullest.

A very unfortunate development has been the politicizing of the Tomas relief assistance programme along partisan political lines. With a general election just around the corner, it is to be expected that there will be some political divisions about the direction of any such programme. But for nationals, in prominent political positions, to be publicly raising issues on radio that the government of the day is ‘not to be trusted’ is tantamount to shooting ourselves in the foot. Are we telling the outside world to ignore the plight of our farmers and those rendered homeless, because some people do not ‘trust’ the government? Should they therefore donate their contributions to Haiti, Indonesia or some other disaster-affected area?

Again, there are reports of a very small minority of persons, obviously influenced by such negative trends, but who have been affected, saying that they will not accept “anything from Ralph.” Sad as it may be, the choice is theirs.

It is incumbent on those who have access to the airwaves to demonstrate not only patriotism and maturity, but a sense of political responsibility. We are not helping those who are easily swayed by such negativism, nor are we helping the cause of our country and people. Such political irresponsibility is to be deplored, in the strongest terms.