No Free Help

PM to assist neighbours hit by Tomas but…

By Ria Taitt
November 01, 2010 –

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-BissessarNo help for Caricom countries hit by Tropical Storm Tomas without benefits to Trinidad and Tobago.

This was made clear by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday.

She said Trinidad and Tobago stands ready to assist its Caricom neighbours but she stipulated that any aid would only come after discussions with her Cabinet colleagues as well as the Opposition Leader, and must in some measure benefit the country.

Speaking at a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, Persad-Bissessar said she has received a call from the Prime Minister of St Vincent while Foreign Affairs Minister Suruj Rambachan had been in contact with his counterparts in Barbados and St Lucia, territories in the region which have been hit by Tomas.

She said she intended to speak to her Cabinet colleagues as well as the Leader of the Opposition to see what relief this country could give to the other Caribbean islands.

“We will have to look at ways in which we would be able to assist. But you would recall my comments earlier this year, when I said there must some way in which Trinidad and Tobago would also benefit. So if we are giving assistance with housing for example, and that is one of the areas that we (Prime Minister of St Vincent and myself ) spoke about, … then we may be able to use Trinidad and Tobago builders and companies, so that whatever money or assistance is given, redounds back in some measure to the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” she said.
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38 thoughts on “No Free Help”

  1. A most insensitive comment at a time when your neighbours are in trouble.The PM is probably pandering to her supporters in T&T. Everyone knows that foreign aid involves employment for the country supplying it.
    T&T is one of the wealthy Caribbean nations. T&T has a responsibility to help. It is not necessary to publicy set conditions and act like a selfish neighbour.

  2. The most insensitive remark ever made by a Caribbean Leader. Wow!! The Trini PM remarks at this time will not be forgotten. Today it is us, tomorrow it could be you. Selah

    1. It is true that disasters and trials do bring out the best in us as well as the worst in us. I submit that the latter is case in this instance. There is an unadulterated comtempt for other Caribbean people, coupled with an arrogance that cannot be supressed. It rises efortlessly to the surface from time to time. I believe that the Prime Minister cannot help herself – she speaks what she is, her convictions and disdain for Caribbean peoples. Not even animals respond to each other in this way in times of distress. Hail the exalted human!

  3. Rowley blanks Kamla…says no to talks on hurricane relief
    Leader of the Opposition Dr Keith Rowley has rejected Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s offer to join in talks to determine what assistance T&T will provide to Caricom states affected by Hurricane Tomas.Persad-Bissessar extended the invitation to Rowley on Monday, asking that whatever assistance to be provided must result in some benefit to T&T nationals. She said if the Caricom states wanted houses constructed, then T&T nationals must be hired to construct the units. But Rowley, in a statement yesterday, said he “totally rejects this backward, colonial policy and will have nothing to with such discussions or concept.” He said he would have nothing to do with “humanitarian relief from the people of T&T to Caricom that is tied to conditionalities of self-interest as outlined by our Prime Minister.”

    …Rowley: PM bringing shame on T&T with aid ‘conditions’

    Gopee-Scoon condemns help with ‘conditions’
    Former PNM foreign affairs minister Paula Gopee-Scoon has condemned the stand taken by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that the Government would not help Caricom countries hit by Hurricane Tomas without benefits to T&T.

    That’s dangerous, Madam PM
    There are dangers to this country’s economy, to its image and to the regional integration movement associated with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar being so hard-nosed about giving assistance to our Caricom partners on the basis of this country getting something in return from lending a hand in a time of need. As with her comment of T&T not being an ABM for Caricom, this statement requiring a pound of flesh for assistance can seem to be offensive and demeaning to our Caricom neighbours.

    Wrong words, PM
    Disaster relief and economic assistance should not be, nor made to appear as, a business deal. Help should be extended without any strings so glaringly attached, especially in light of the loss of life in St Lucia and the infrastructural devastation in other islands.

    1. Rowley reaction here is similar to Panday’s continuous anger and non-cooperation when he was Leader of the Opposition.
      Rowley could be much more effective if he agrees to consult and emphasize his position in committee.
      Rowley also shows his lack of knowledge and experience by his reaction.Even first world countries like the USA and Canada when providing relief and aid in emergencies spend on average over 80 to 90% on products and personnel form their own countries.It has nothing to do with “backward, colonial policy”, as he stated.
      The problem here is not the substance of what the PM said but the poor tone and use of words in the public arena.An experienced PM would have been more sensitive and would have shown some compassion to her neighbours.

  4. Who Helping the poor and unfortunate right here in Trinidad ? Trinidad used to be The Godfather of the Caribbean, all that was given- did we get back much in return?

  5. I find that what she said could have been said in a different way but I see nothing wrong with what she said. This has nothing to do with greed and is everything about effectively running a country and protecting its’ citizens.

    There are Trinidadians in Trinidad who work as electricians and builders and there are companies in that field that aren’t doing well and those people that work in those positions obviously aren’t doing well either.

    I have relatives and friends licensed to work in those fields and they are unable to get steady work. They can’t afford to pay their bills. Trinidad and Tobago is not some country with unlimited funds. Note, that I would feel the same way if this were a discussion about the United States.

    While, I agree that those countries need to receive some support from ALL Caribbean countries that can afford to help, Trinidad and Tobago is currently in a deficit and the money that Trinidad and Tobago DOES have should be for its’ citizens.

    If Trinidad and Tobago does help any country, which takes away funds from Trinidadian and Tobagonian citizens, then Trinidadian and Tobagonian citizens should be given work.

    Also note, that the article never said that she would not assist.

    Yes, it is a time to band together but I would not cut off my nose to help anyone and neither should Trinidad and Tobago or any country for that matter. We are a group of Caribbean islands but we are separate states, separate countries and our Caribbean leaders need to make decisions that are right for the countries for which they are leading and not right for EVERY Caribbean country.

    I find it very disheartening that there are people that find folly with the PM’s message. Trinidad and Tobago has been assisting other Caribbean islands for years – even before my parents were born. I am very disappointed that people are so judgmental on the fact that Trinidad and Tobago’s leader has suggested that the citizens of OUR COUNTRY should get something in return.

    If it was the other way around and the PM of any other country said that and it was directed towards Trinidad and Tobago I would respect their comment (even if it wasn’t relayed as respectfully as it could been) because every country has to survive and every country and its’ rulers need to make decisions to ensure the survival and safety of the country and its’ citizens. Every country has that right.

    Please note, that there are citizens from other Caribbean islands that moved to Trinidad, squatted on our land, built their homes on that land and our Trinidad and Tobago government gave them that land as well as Trinidadian and Tobagonian citizenship. What did the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago get in return? My grandfather was born Grenada. My grandmother was born in Venezuela. We do not see Trinidadians and Tobagonians as unwelcoming people or people that are unwilling to help. We welcome everyone that sets foot on our land and we are willing to support our government in aiding other Caribbean islands.


    When any other country helps another, there is always an expectation of something in return. It is just not spoken about in the open. The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago is simply expressing an expectation – even though I believe that she should have expressed that expectation in a better way.

    If any country refuses to accept assistance from Trinidad and Tobago that is their choice. It will not be a disservice to Trinidad and Tobago and its’ citizens. It will be a disservice to the country itself.

  6. as I stated on face book this Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago is insensitive to PEOPLE and is a shame and disgrace to Trinidad and Tobago, regional integration, and Women. Without fear or favor I can say a BLACK Trinidadian will NEVER behave like her … at the end of the day it have nothing to do with poverty but reaching out to one another in a time of need. It could not have been money but sending a group of personal to assist in locating people would be just fine. The more people get so called education is the more re-tarted they get.This is a sad day for Trinidad and Tobago .That is why i do not believe in CARICOM

  7. this woman should be placed on the list of the worst prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago. BLACK PEOPLE IN TRINIDAD PLEASE MAKE MORE CHILDREN

  8. Help can come in many ways. Eg. a battalion of soldiers sent for a month to clear the roads. NGO raising money that can be sent to churches to assist people in their community. The devastation is what it is and the people will survive. I cannot see islanders starving. However, the PM must temper her statements with a bit of compassion. I agree that she cannot act like the father of the Caribbean former PM Manning, but she can provide leadership by meeting with Caribbean leaders and working out a plan to assist.

  9. Yet, yesterday the 30 cases of water I purchased were from Blue Waters ltd. – a Trinidad Company. St. Lucians (and residents here) arent yet aware of this because their focus is on the storm. I hope our gov’t didnt ask Kamla for anything and I hope they don’t send anything. I will spread this article and we will boycott Trinidad goods as much as we can. Brave to the opposition leader for refusing to be a part of this nonsense. This is what being neighborly is about – giving without an expectation. Aren’t we a part of Caricom – does TnT not benefit from the other islands by its companies spreading its market space to the other islands? Financial companies, industrial, manufacturing etc. Can TnT alone support they size they have and want to become? Can TnT consume all that it manufactures? Shame on us in the Caribbean when, despite the obvious example of Europe – much bigger nations that stand a FAR greater chance of survival on their own, we continue in the the Caribbean to think (at least she does) that we can survive on our own. Shame on her!

    1. The PM response really is to the excesses of the past administration. However, diplomacy must not be throw aside when dealing with our Caribbean friends. As I have said before it does not have to be millions, a fruitful guesture could be a battalion of soldiers going and helping to clear roads and repair bridges. These soldiers are already paid, if they volunteer then they should be given a bonus for doing so. Some of these islands need a little assistance to get them back to the place quickly where the tourism industry will not be affected.

      The Canadian government for instance have a battlion of soldiers who responds within 24 hours of any disaster. DART was there in Sri Lanka providing clean drinking water and assisting with food supplies in the short term. With the possiblity of our Caribbean neighbours being affect by hurricanes, I think it would be a good idea for the military to come to the Minister of National Security and have something of this nature set up in the event of natural disasters in the region. Sometimes it is not always money the people need, all they may need is kind guesture. NGOs in Trinidad can also respond as needed.

  10. When coming to the assistance of a fellow sister country whose populace are suffering loss of life, homes and damage to their infastructure after being battered by a natural disaster, there should be no strings attached. The ploicy or practice of benifitting from disaster victims is called opportunism

  11. I think it was a very reckless statement to make appart for not being very stately with her approach it was very insensitive to the affected Islands.

    I know for sure when desasters like these happen, it is always handled in a recipocial manner, there is no need to say “no free help”.

    How would the world look as President Obama, or pass president Clinton if they had said the same thing.

    As a leader, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago should better manage what she says.


  12. Please Marvin do not tar all Trinis with the same brush.

    We already have to suffer for placing an ingenue at the helm. We are not unique, as the U.S. barely survived a ‘witch’ and more than a few anarchist being elected to the U.S. Senate, we’ll not count how many now occupy representative positions in the US Congress.

    There is no substitution for Class; Trinis didn’t learn from the Panday experiment so they are now about to reap the whirlwind with PM Bissessar.

    Not everyone is qualified for political office, I use the term Class but to distinguish the word from its originator ‘Caste’ my meaning implies “Noblesse oblige”

  13. The people of Trinidad and Tobago wanted change and the got change that they did not barging for. In fact while the new Prime Minister is brilliant and articulated she needs some help in the area of diplomacy. Not even the United States government will make such statements no matter how rich, knowing that it cannot stand alone. I believe in my heart that the Prime Minister has not yet learned how to govern as her comments reflect opposition politics. Please, can the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacture Association run a crash course for her on regional Trade and the possibility of they not having regional markets to sell their products if she continues to insult her regional neighbours, and cause Trinidad and Tobago’s economy to suffer?

  14. There is an old saying ” when your neighbour’s house is on fire – wet yours) this is because there is the possibility that your house can burn too. This statement by the TnT PM was very hurtful to all St.Lucians at a time when some of our countries are suffering the worst desaster ever experienced. Trinidad already has more than its fair share of commercial activity including Trinidadian labour in all of these islands. It is more than they would ever accomodate our products and labour in Trinidad .And we talk CARICOM and UNITY? In Lucian parlance – U EH REDDY YET!!! KAMLA

  15. The islands are very resilient and don’t need a flood of money pouring in as aid. But if, say, a large number of houses need reconstructing, then the aid flows in, the money goes to a local contractor to build the houses. So local contractors benefit from the aid. Are Trinis happy if our local contractors reap a profit from the disaster? I’m sure if you sent soldiers then the benefit is self evident, your lads get a tour of duty, sort of. What she says makes perfect sense, maybe just not said in the right way.

  16. We need to have discussions about how to assist other countries in times of natural disasters. We also have to examine if our aid is allowing the ordinary people to develop to help themselves in the future or if we are simply funding big business and corrupt politicians who do not have the people’s developmental interest at heart.

    I am not surprised that head of NH international (Caribbean) Limited Emile Elias, supports Kamla’s statement. I could see him and other large contractors salivating at the idea of profiting more from Kamla’s stated policy of exploiting the misfortunes of other Caribbean countries.

    Kamla has articulated a policy for Trinidad and Tobago that is immoral and similar to what is done by the U.S. and other European nations when they give ‘aid’. Under the pretense of giving aid they usually fund their own businesses while extracting more – like unfair trade deals – from the countries they claim to help. This is not aid. Their ‘aid’ is always about further exploiting a country.

    Look at what is happening in Haiti. Instead of allowing the funds collected to help rebuild Haiti to go to ordinary Haitians and their small contractors who have the ability to rebuild their country, we have the bulk of the funds being managed by the U.S. and going to their overpriced contractors. The U.S. also uses these funds to manipulate the political landscape of the country. Trinidad and Tobago should be in the forefront in denouncing this colonial practice – not adopting it.

    If there is a concern that aid funds is being used to expand competing business of other countries, then Kamla could have offered those products or to send some of our contractors to help in the rebuilding process of those countries that need our help. She could negotiate with our local contractors and pay them locally. This could be practical, especially if some of these countries lack the expertise to rebuild their country and/or if our government believes their governments are corrupt. But stating that you are looking for something in return for assistance in dealing with aid to disaster-stricken countries is repugnant.

    What if the People’s Partnership has as its stated policy that they would not assist any citizen in need unless the party can benefit in a tangible way from such aid? Maybe this is the practice of most political parties — exploiting the suffering of others for their own political and financial gain but this sort of reckless abuse should be seriously reconsidered and stopped.

    Kamla also has to realize that she will not get away for much longer playing princess in a palace and making feel-good speeches and gestures. She will have to move her government from functioning as a caretaker government to one that can harness the best ideas of our people and develop this country.

  17. I am deeply affected ,agitated and ashamed of the comment made by our dearest Prime Minister with respect to helping our Caribbean brothers,St Lucia,St Vincent and Barbados who have all felt the brunt of storm/hurricane Tomas .I want you to know that all trinis do not think like this,we do not selfishly give only to get something in return.Please accept my humble apology on behalf of all Trinis who understand the meaning of humanitarian,the significance of international trade and beauty of diplomacy in leadership .

  18. Shame!! Shame!! Shame!!! on you Madam PM you are very insensitive to the needs of these people…

  19. Hopefully, the PM will offer an apology not only to her Caricom partners but to the people of T&T for portraying the country in such a bad light.

  20. Check and you would see!!! Did Trinidad really experience any hardship or natural disaster for the longest while? Trini’s are only prone to OLD TALK and GUESSING.
    If this country was really hit with a natural disaster or some form of hardship they would understand what is suffering. Why make Trinidad as America in bailing out others on tax payers money, while people don”t know what the HELL is going on!!!!!!

  21. Twisting Kamla’s offer
    We must confess to being a little surprised at the criticisms being directed at Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar by opposition politicians and some media over her offer to provide assistance to islands damaged by Hurricane Tomas.

    Boycott TT goods
    CARIBBEAN nationals have started a campaign to boycott Trinidad and Tobago products after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s statement that whatever assistance is to be provided to islands affected by Hurricane Tomas, must result in some benefit to TT nationals.

    Boycott backlash across Caribbean
    Prime Minister Kamla Persad–Bissessar’s statements about applying conditions to any aid T&T provides in the wake of Tropical Storm Tomas has triggered an avalanche of criticisms.

    T&T must benefit
    Emile Elias agrees with Kamla:
    The construction industry is divided on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s statement that aid to countries ravaged by Tropical Storm Tomas should rebound to the benefit of Trinidad and Tobago.

    Jack: Why not help Caricom and TT?
    Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner yesterday defended Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s statement that whatever assistance is to be provided to Caricom islands which were severely affected by Hurricane Tomas must result in some benefit to nationals of Trinidad and Tobago (TT).

    …Jack Warner: PNM gave away money

    ‘Do not boycott’ -Baugh says Jamaicans should avoid action before dialogue with T&T
    Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Dr Ken Baugh is advising against a rush to boycott goods produced in Trinidad and Tobago in reaction to a controversial statement by that nation’s prime minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

  22. I wonder if Dr. Keith Rowley would publicly challenge Emile Elias’ defense of Kamla’s statement, especially as they both stand to profit from her statement. What is Colm Imbert’s view on Kamla’s statement given that he is also involved in construction? I suspect that several PNM bigwigs are split over wanting to condemn Kamla for political mileage and wanting to profit from her position.

    What would Emile Elias say if Trinidad and Tobago had a major natural disaster and the U.S. offers aid, brings in their construction companies to do all the work and left out these local contactors? Emile would be screaming how the aid is not benefiting our local industries.

    While I disagree with Kamla’s statement for reasons which I have stated earlier, I also find the call from some Caribbean people to boycott T&T’s products because of her statement to be out of order.

    Aid is not an entitlement that allows those requesting it be so demanding.

    Why have no calls been made to boycott products from the U.S. and UK for their extremely colonizing practice of using aid to further exploit the victims of natural disasters? How come many countries have been accepting worst conditionalities from the U.S. and other European powers without protest? How come Caribbean countries are not protesting what is being done under the disguise of aid to Haiti?

    Check out, “Naomi Klein – The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”
    “Award-winning journalist, author and filmmaker Naomi Klein details what she calls the “the shock doctrine”: the use of public disorientation following massive collective shocks – wars, terrorists attacks, natural disasters – to push through highly unpopular economic policies.”

    There are people in this country who disparagingly view aid to other Caribbean countries as just helping lowly Africans and they could be defending Kamla’s statement from their racist perspective. Even she, in buying the U.S. conduct as her policy, is coming from that general ignorance of our cultural differences. She is unable to appreciate how her statements could be perceived along racial and other ethnic lines.

    We should develop a policy for addressing how aid is dealt with in general, but more importantly, how to assist those affected by natural disasters.

  23. She is clearly pandering to the UNCOP supporters who are rabidly anti-afro especially towards Grenadians and Vinceys etc, she and her supporters would NEVER tolerate that if it was a PNM PM cussing Jagdeo about human rights in Guyana witness the few Indos in the media in T&T and Guyana who have said nothing against these statements!(two of Bakh’s men were killed in GT by afros opposed to the indo PPP gov’t while they were “working” on Roger Khan’s death squad!)

    Anyone remember how Danny Montano cussed up Manning when Guyana was under floods caused from mostly the poor incompetent administration of the Indian PPP party, Montano demanded aid $$ in Parliament almost calling the the then PM a “racist” if no aid went to Guyana, the Guyanese gov’t then handed out the pumps bought by T&T to its party supporters friends and family members they have since “repayed” us with fake letters in on of the daily papers loads of guyanese indians claiming to be “building” T&T’s future etc, alyuh look fuh dat as the song says.

  24. Jus to my fellow Caribbean neighbours….. Remember because someone won an election and is the leader of a country mean the BAD TIMED & INCONSIDERATE comments represent US, the Trinidadian people’s thoughts and views – the people that see you as our neighbours and in EVERY disaster run multiple relief efforts in addition to whatever aid is given by the govt, trying to assist in ANY and EVERY way. Because our “leader” said this doesnt mean it is how WE the people feel regardless of our race. Because Bush went to war doesnt mean the American ppl stood behind that decision… So because she speaks out of her other end doesn’t mean its how WE ALL feel.

  25. Sometimes one must give Jack his Jacket, and Jim his Jim boots, In this case let me say good job, Madame PM, for attempting to shape a clear Foreign policy , when it comes to aid as opposed to the almost laissez- faire crap that existed for the past decades of oil and gas give aways by successive regimes in our country, simply as a way of pandering to voters , and distant families ,scattered across the country.
    It is time our ungrateful brothers of sisters across the Caribbean wake up and recognize T&T’s role as a viable regional leader, on social , economic , and political affairs , and so stop taking my country for granted as they have been doing for too long.
    A few lifetime disgruntled,would chastise her, as being a bit undiplomatic , but so be it. Let us continue to build on this prudent ‘Realist,’ pathway , and ensure that T&T ‘National Interest,’ always remain paramount,in keeping with the traditions of great nations. Let the Tobago Flying Fish stealing upstart Bajans pretenders, and self opinionated Yardee boys, and gals recognize that there is a new Sheriff in town, and there shall be no more free lunches, yes?
    Hopefully , I did not surprise many , with this my full support of Madame K, in her theprudent thrust to set the Ship of State afloat, away from Helter Skelter drifting it floated along , for too long by the clueless, and arrogant- but den some say I am a flip flopping , Schizophrenic. I in contrast say no , but simply ,a patriotic voice of reason, that would forever put country over tribe, while holding all our power brokers hands to the symbolic fire , where necessary.
    Love country!

  26. I am no too sure I heard my friend Neal correctly! From a purely diplomatic and humanitarian point of view the PM or Madame K’s remarks appears arrogant and colonial. It is true that her most ardent supporters would find favour with what she said but it is easy to lecture to those in need when you do not feel the pain of their suffering. When disaster occurs around us with devastation to life and property we should be genuine in our offer of help. If you cant offer that help, just shut up and say nothing. Kamla appears to have foot and mouth disease in foreign affairs and might consider either changing her foreign ministry or adding more reasonable people to it’s it’s staff. The guy running that ministry is Indocentric aN

  27. Are you suggesting that one of us might be making a “tongue in cheek” expression ,brother Kian?

  28. Kamla heavily criticised for relief aid comments
    PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has been criticised by online commentators around the world for saying aid will only be given to Caribbean countries affected by Tropical Storm Tomas if it benefits Trinidad and Tobago.

    PM on Tomas relief criticisms: Storm in teacup
    Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says criticisms of her proposal to give conditional relief to St Vincent, St Lucia and other Caricom states is a storm in a teacup.

    …PM goes to St Lucia today
    Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar leaves today for St Lucia to get a first-hand view of the damage caused by Hurricane Tomas last week.

    …Kamla helps neighbour
    PRIME MINISTER Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday lent a “helping hand” to this country’s Caribbean neighbours as she launched a public/private sector disaster aid initiative model which would, among other things, see the local construction industry play a role in requests from Caribbean leaders for long-term aid.

    …’Better for T&T to donate materials instead of $$’
    Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday that she stood by her statement that in extending a helping hand to Caricom countries that were affected by Tropical Storm Tomas, steps will be taken to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago benefits.

    PM: Life Fund model for region

    Business: No regional backlash from PM’s comments
    Local businesses say there is no evidence of a boycott of Trinidad and Tobago goods in other Caricom countries in response to an on-line reaction to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s statement concerning Trinidad and Tobago’s aid to affected countries in the region which were affected by Tropical Storm Tomas.

  29. Caribbean People,I deeply regret the statement which was made by the Prime Minister of my Country.I personally feel , the part about us benefiting from this, should have been left out of the comment.I would have reserved those words for closed door sessions,with the parties involved. There is something that is called Diplomacy, which I think is clearly lacking, Sadly.I must say.Why was the Damage Control necessary? The Damage has already been done.The People,s Partnership,seems to have No clear Leadership.Their Hard Drive seems to have slowed down. Boy do they need an Antivirus.They need to reboot Now,while The PNM is busy upgrading Their Software.God Help Us All.

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