Assessing the leader

By Raffique Shah
April 21, 2020

Raffique ShahWhen a nation wages war, and when that war is just, it is the duty of every able-bodied citizen to support his or her country, each according to his ability. In the current situation, the entire world is at war against the invisible CORVID-19 virus that is wreaking death and destruction in an unprecedented global attack. In most countries, people have rallied behind their governments, battling in the frontlines and from their homes, executing simple strategies that are formulated to deny the killer-virus a fertile environment in which it thrives, hence containing it and starving it to death.

The tactics that have been devised by scientists and medical professionals to enable every person to be a soldier in the war are unbelievably simple. In fact, because they are such, some of my comrades from way-back-when (we attended the military college Sandhurst together) sent me a bit of wry British humour that is being circulated on the Internet. It depicts our generation addressing the so-called millennials as follows: Your grandparents fought world wars. You are being asked to wash your hands and lie on a couch all day. DO NOT F#@! THIS UP!

Sadly, many of them, admittedly not restricted to today’s generations, are messing up the simple missions they have been assigned: stay at home, wash your hands, stay alive. The fools, young and old, who always wanted easy lives, meaning lying on beds or couches, doing nothing except watching television, and being paid to so do, are breaking the basic rules. In the process, they endanger their own, miserable lives, and those of the wider community. When they are stricken with COVID-19 and they writhe in agony, they will cry like babies for Mama and Papa to help them. By then it might be too late for them, and for other innocent persons whom they will have infected.

These sorry excuses for manhood seem to be too stupid to understand that by breaking the quarantine and social distancing regulations, they are compromising the hard-earned record this small country has established. The low infection and death rates did not happen by chance or luck. Even before the virus made its first strike-a resident who had returned here from Switzerland, we were told-Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh was hammering into the populace the basic hygiene we should practice to minimise its impact.

The sensible among us, who, thankfully, form the vast majority of the population, realised that this virus was life-threatening and highly contagious. They took a conscious decision to make what sacrifices were required of them to confront COVID-19 and flog it to death.

Early o’clock, too, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley decided to lead the charge from the front. In crises like this pandemic, people in leadership positions are put to the test in the most severe way. There are no precedents to guide them, the last such event having taken place 100 years ago in different circumstances. This pandemic is bigger than any world war we have witnessed. The invisible enemy is bombing 100-plus countries simultaneously.

Besides the medical casualties it has inflicted, it has also crippled the economies of nations. Our economy has not grown for almost a decade, and production of commodities we depend upon, oil and gas, has declined. So the PM, in assuming command of the troops, knew the odds were stacked against him. But he had little choice. He could have abdicated, of course, or adopted the lunatic stance that Donald Trump has done, tearing apart his own country in the heat of a war that he does not appear to be winning.

Dr Rowley has taken command of his forces, ably assisted by the capable Minister Deyalsingh and Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram, with a number of field commanders deployed from the frontlines to the rear echelons and supply lines. The virus has been kept in check, this in spite of fifth columnists who seem hell-bent on sabotaging their own forces.

Let’s face it: the prime advantage we have is to have contained the virus by closing our borders and properly managing the few ships and aircraft that are allowed to enter, priority being given to vital supplies-food, medicines and medical equipment. Some fellow-citizens who ignored the PM’s plea to avoid all foreign travel except for what was unavoidable, have been crying foul after they were stranded in several foreign countries.

They are aware that the sole such group that we accommodated, nationals who had gone on a Caribbean cruise, caused us severe pain when most of them tested positive for the virus. Why must we take other such risks and compromise the safety of the nation? The interests of the many must come before those of a few.

Anyway, such machinations aside, Dr Rowley has risen to the occasion. He has displayed leadership qualities we had not seen in him before the crisis. These include making tough decisions in the national interest-imposing the quarantine orders, shutting down the country when initial instructions failed to achieve the desired results, and extending the social safety-net to cushion the blows poor people suffered.

He did lose his cool on occasion, especially when Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her colleagues made outlandish remarks. But that is par for the political course, more so in an election year (which COVID-19 has forced us to forget or ignore). I didn’t follow his spat with the Express, but he cannot convince me that this newspaper is promoting racial strife. And I saw his anger when he spoke about people who ignore the voluntary quarantine order, thereby endangering the entire country.

Overall, though, he has performed well as the leader of the nation. This is not just my assessment. I have heard people who are non-partisan, and many who oppose Rowley and the PNM, express similar sentiments. And I have never been afraid to express my views and assessments, damn the consequences.

10 thoughts on “Assessing the leader”

  1. “Anyway, such machinations aside, Dr Rowley has risen to the occasion. He has displayed leadership qualities we had not seen in him before the crisis.” He should get the Nobel peace price for such nice leadership qualities.

    The truth is all governments rose to the occasion and implemented the WHO directive. If that excites the Lootenent, then one can only imagine what else does.

    What leadership did he display? Shut down bars and doubles vendors whilst keeping the 1% businesses open. They of course laughing all the way to the bank. The lineup at these businesses were more Like a group huddle than social distancing. But they are special. So to the banks that operated on skeleton staff with long lineups. Of course his leadership was displayed as government operating businesses had group huddles, with hundreds of citizens in these places.

    As of this week the vultures are all set to pillage the treasury. Some $21 billion are available; as the 1% started drooling for the incredible sacrifice they are making. Surely these leeches have no conscience. The poor people were all lining up in central several miles waiting for jihadist now philanthropist Inshan to give them some food. PNM supporters with party card are getting food card etal. Others have to bring their house land and living for a lil social help. And then if it’s approved.

    Yes with oil under a dollar a barrel and energy prices taking a beating. The true test of leadership is ahead. As the PM said we need to wean people off the government. Will he be able to wean the 1% off the treasury…if I was a betting man I would seriously doubt it!

  2. “The sensible among us, who, thankfully, form the vast majority of the population, realised that this virus was life-threatening and highly contagious. They took a conscious decision to make what sacrifices were required of them to confront COVID-19 and flog it to death.“

    To date there are 115 cases of Corvid19, with just 8 deaths and 28 recovered. Leaving 79 cases.40 of the cases were from the cruise ship. We know that cluster leaving 39 cases. Some more from cruise ship and airline.

    The reality is the cases in Trinidad is not high to warrant such high level of fear. Of the 79 cases most of it is mild with patients walking around. In a nation of 1.3 million people is there justification for such a complete shut down. H1N1 took over 36 people (possibly more) and there was no shut down. Dengue took much much more no shut down. AIDS took thousands…

    The government needs to open businesses with social distancing and mask at least for awhile, until the numbers reflect a need for shut down. With oil at under $1 US per barrel, this economy is already in a nose dive. For the 2020 fiscal budget package the price of oil was pegged at $60 U.S. per barrel, revised to $40 U.S. per barrel. One wonder if it will now be revised to .50 cents a barrel. Under the present regime they have done nothing to grow the economy under this dear leader so highly revered. In fact they have borrowed and borrowed taking over 40% out of the HSF and adding $60 billion in debt since 2015. Reaching a debt ceiling of $120 billion plus.

    With no additional revenues in the future, most nations struggling economically, an energy glut, and our world class spender opps Prime Minister. TnT future is safe in the hands of the balisier brigade watch out for more taxes! A covid19 tax ahead. I think the dear leader needs a second term to finish the job. Those of the 1% are salivating the generous packages ahead. The $21 billion is hollow money that will be wasted away..

  3. T&T has done a good job of taking the advice of international experts to deal with this virus.
    The results are encouraging with better numbers than most countries.
    All public Covid statistics in T&T seem to suggest that it would be safe to re-open the country maintaining social distancing etc.based on how other countries have acted.
    Most countries in the world would wish that they had similar Covid stats.
    One wonders if T&T stats. are accurate or is information being withheld from the public?

  4. There are Trumpists everywhere even on this blog. Mr. Shah is right that we in T&T are fortunate to up till now deny the killer-virus a fertile environment in which to thrive. I don’t care who gets the credit for doing that, it is the results that matter, particularly the number of lives saved. The economic costs are high but it is the case in many other more resourced countries than ours. Indiscipline could easily make this a worst problem than it is now. After all islands are akin to large cruise ships that can easily turn into a crucible for the wanton spread of the virus in an enclosed space with well defined borders. It will be too much too ask all bloggers to unite and help battle this virus irrespective of political affiliation, not when there are political agendas to constantly promote.

  5. Cruise ships are getting a bad reputation as a result of this virus.
    Caribbean countries and other countries have denied entry to cruise ships forcing them to drift around in search of assistance. These are the same ships which generate millions of dollars in tourists visitations annually and which are of great benefit to the tourism sector.
    Passengers picked up the virus in certain ports and the spread took place on the ships.
    The humane thing to do was to allow these ships to dock and use strict, safe measures to treat the affected passengers and facilitate the return to their home countries. This is what eventually happened after lengthy delays.
    Closing borders seem to have worked everywhere, but it is humane to permit exemptions.For example, T&T is probably the only country reported by the media to refuse safe, regulated entry to their own nationals.Countries like Canada, the USA , United Kingdom are still accepting their nationals from all over the world and even arranging repatriation flights for them. As far I know a country cannot deny entry to its own citizens.
    It would be interesting to see if and when the cruise industry returns, how the industry responds to those countries which banned them in a crisis.

  6. It is time for Rowley to muzzle the National security minister, Stuart Young.
    He seems to react inappropriately to every social media post.
    He just claimed that there are 330.000 T&T nationals outside the country and by implication is suggesting that they might want to return home during this crisis.
    How many of those are dual citizens of other countries and have no desire to return to T&T in a hurry, if ever?
    This minister behaves like a punk, mouthing off at every opportunity.The PM has similar tendencies but his timing and choice of topics to which he responds are more appropriate and targeted and therefore very effective.
    Minister Young should learn that sometimes silence is golden and the PM should put some strong packaging tape over his mouth before he does more damage.

  7. Under the astute leadership of Dr. Rowley the mismanagement continues. Here is a proud example of the PNM competences. According to a report Cayman Island has a population of 64,000 with 145,000 test kit, Barbados 286,000 — 35,000, Belize 383,000- 20,000, Trinidad and Tobago 1,390,000 -14,000 test kits.

    A famous talk show host said they tested him twice and when he ask for a report, they had none. They gave him a letter saying he was free to go then changed their minds. Such is the “tragedy of errors”. Imagine for a moment what is happening to other citizens many just bearing the grind. This is your life and you are denied the privilege of knowing.

    This brings into question the ability of the government to manage this crisis effectively. Are their testing methodology effective? It is a hard question to ask but it is necessary. And given that there is so little testing being done is the real pandemic ahead? You could have carriers all over the place and not know!

    In India they have temporarily stopped testing due to defective kits “The Indian Council of Medical Research has advised all states to discontinue the usage of rapid test kits for the next two days after some of them were revealed to be defective.

    The council is sending teams to validate kits already in use so they can assess which ones are faulty and trace them back to the manufacturers.” Testing and effective kits are very important to stopping this pandemic! And so the drama continues!

  8. The drama created and mass hysteria over covid19 in the media is mind boggling. With merely 8 deaths and many recovered one wonders why the hysteria. There has been only 115 cases and out of that many are being release daily. Why is that so? In the US over 50,000 deaths. The PNM has placed their hands deep into the treasury. Like a bunch of hungry thieves they are using Covid to full their pockets.

    Here is the reason why TnT don’t have to worry about covid19. “William Bryan, science and technology advisor to the Department of Homeland Security secretary, told reporters at the White House that government scientists had found ultraviolet rays had a potent impact on the pathogen, offering hope that its spread may ease over the summer.
    “Our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have on killing the virus, both surfaces and in the air,” he said.
    “We’ve seen a similar effect with both temperature and humidity as well, where increasing the temperature and humidity or both is generally less favorable to the virus.”

    But they have over $21 billion to fight covid19…

    1. The study by William Bryan of Trump’s Homeland security was emerging and not conclusive. The study was not final and was conveniently used by Trump to bolster his former claims that the heat of the summer will kill the virus.
      This is typical snake oil medicine being perpetrated by Trump and was later condemned by every scientist in the USA and disclaimed by the WHO.Included in this public relations stunt was Trump’s dangerous suggestion that injections of disinfectant might be worth investigation.

      There are some questionable practices related to testing in T&T which cast doubt on the validity and reliability of tests for Covid. There also seem shortages of essential safety equipment. The health ministry seems to be overly preoccupied with what the population is doing wrong but not looking inwardly to identify weaknesses with action plans for improvements.

  9. “Anyway, such machinations aside, Dr Rowley has risen to the occasion. He has displayed leadership qualities we had not seen in him before the crisis. These include making tough decisions in the national interest-imposing the quarantine orders, shutting down the country when initial instructions failed to achieve the desired results, and extending the social safety-net to cushion the blows poor people suffered.”
    And at the other end of the spectrum, we see the appalling lack of leadership in Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the apparent lack of any interest in the well being of Trinidadians and Tobagonians, the undermining of the attempt to stem the tide of Covid 19 in pursuit of what the opposition leader thinks may help her politically, the incoherent and contradictory positions the opposition leader has taken. One wonders when the opposition leader will advise Trinidadians and Tobagonians to drink disinfectant to cure the virus.

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