Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves will not be swayed to change his open border policy here even in the face of concerns presented by Opposition Leader Dr. Godwin Friday. Friday availed himself of a motion of adjournment to discuss a matter of urgent national importance as provided for by the scarcely invoked Section 14 in the House of Assembly Standing Orders.
In his inaugural ruling, House Speaker Carlos James flexed his muscles and allotted each member a 25 minutes window in which to address Parliament.
Dr. Friday explicitly pleaded that the government learn from the mistakes of other nations and do what the most adversely affected would do, if they had the opportunity that SVG now courts so to prevent community transmission of the COVID-19 disease in their jurisdictions.
Shutting off Vincentian borders to all but the most essential trade and personnel movements with allowance, of course, for nationals to return home.
Prime Minister Gonsalves took the time to note all of the 11 questions that Opposition House members submitted for ventilation as part of the day’s intended proceedings.
“I’m a little taken aback by the lack of urgency on the part of the Opposition in the questions which they had put down I think since last week Thursday, one week ago, to be asked of us in this Honorable House.”
The questions referred to issues touching and concerning CLICO, violence and sexual abuse against women, Citizenship By Investment programme, road conditions in Chapmans Village and Belair amongst others.
The Prime Minister then offered to lodge as “a document of the House” a copy of the speech he made while detailing what he described as his government’s COVID-19 Socio-Economic Recovery Plan.
From it he read, “I know that in several countries in our Caribbean there have been total shutdowns, partial shutdowns, the declaration of an entire country as a disaster area and declarations of states of emergency.
“Some Caribbean countries have adopted the broad approach of incremental measures for lower risks, accelerated measures for heightened risks as we have done in St. Vincent in accordance with all the circumstances.”
Dr. Gonsalves, a lawyer by trade, pointed to several other countries “which have used a measured approach” in their COVID-19 response.
He also highlighted the updated quarantine list that stipulates a mandatory period of seclusion for travelers from several “hotspots” as proof of his cognizance of the need “to control persons coming in” to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The additional nursing staff and auxiliary Coast Guard resources, namely the “8 or 9 Coast Guard … safe boats,” PM Gonsalves said, are further evidence of his government’s commitment to strengthen “the surveillance at the borders.”
As it relates to the cruise vessel that stirred some measure of fear in Grenadine residents, Gonsalves told Vincentians, it “had been cleared sometime before and was hanging around in Bequia.
“So it simply went down the Southern Grenadines, didn’t take on any other passengers, was the same persons who had already been cleared.
“I know that the person who called you from Mayreau I would expect that person to be fearful. I addressed that, there’s a fear.
“But we have to manage the risks. We can do it incremental in some cases or we can do it accelerated.”
The Prime Minister committed to close individual ports providing that any issue requiring such an action is of sufficient magnitude and is brought to his attention via the appropriate civil servants.