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Health concerns locally; racism rears head in USA

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So much has been happening lately, both at home and abroad, that suitable comment would fill more than all the columns of this or any respectable newspaper.But, in the spirit of the saying, “charity begins at home,” let me begin with local developments.

The strong Garifuna delegation, which visited this month, has concluded a successful visit and returned to their places of abode. This annual pilgrimage is a most significant one, both in strengthening the bonds between our people here at home and their descendants in the diaspora, as well as in enriching our understanding of our history and culture. It is a fitting initiative which serves to further remind us of the significance of August, the month of Emancipation and the birth of the prophet Marcus Mosiah Garvey.

However, in the midst of our celebrations and commemorations, our people face challenges in relation to the health service. Many of the concerns focus on the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH), our country’s main hospital. There have been copious complaints in the media about problems at the MCMH and calls for protest action, leading up to a picket by some well-known protesters outside the MCMH this week.

Sadly, if we are not careful, the matter could degenerate into a narrow political one, obscuring the more fundamental nature of the situation. On the one hand there are those opposed to the Government, spearheading the calls for public action, calling the situation a very serious crisis. On the other, there is the Government, taking defensive positions in the face of these attacks.

The state of the health services is a concern for us all and any government, no matter how good its record, must be cognizant that any deficiencies, or perceived deficiencies, will be a cause for public concern. While it is true that this Government has done a lot to improve health service delivery, it cannot be denied that many challenges remain, highlighted by the problems at the MCMH. Whether these are exaggerated or not, and whether persons are seemingly attempting to use these problems to challenge the competence of the current administration in health care delivery, is beside the point. The fact remains that there are problems and there ought to be admission of these and a stated resolve to address them. Health is too important to be allowed to become a political football.

RACISM FINDS SUCCOUR IN WHITE HOUSE

As a proud black man and long-time advocate of the rights of black people, I cannot help but add my voice to the global condemnation of US President Donald Trump in his reprehensible reaction to some of the worst and most open displays of racism in modern US history. The well-publicized events in Charlotteville, Virginia, last weekend, have shocked people all over the world and sparked outrage in all but the havens of racist thought and practice.

The USA is the self-appointed “bastion of democracy” in the world, preaching to all and sundry about the need to uphold and practise democracy and respect the rights and freedoms of all people. In furtherance of this, it has not hesitated to send its troops on military invasions far and wide, and to threaten others, as Trump has done in the case of Venezuela.

How do you square this with what the whole world witnessed last weekend in Charlotteville and in months and years precedent in US cities? Worse, how could the head of such a nation, not only initially hesitate to condemn those who openly take violent action in defence of their racist views, but later make statements which can only be interpreted as giving further licence to the worst elements of human society, the Klu Klux Klan and Nazi (Hitlerite) supporters?

Trump’s actions provide yet another clear indication of what he represents, and given that he is president of the most powerful country in the world, a neighbour of the Caribbean, we should be many times concerned. That, in the midst of all this, and the concerns about a possible nuclear confrontation with North Korea, he could decide to threaten to launch a military attack against Venezuela, further demonstrates the danger of having such a person in such a position. The Caribbean must take heed!

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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