One Vincentian who is employed with the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings company gave voice to the mounting distress being experienced by Eastern Caribbean nationals who are quarantined aboard several cruise ships at Port Miami.
In an exclusive Asbert News Network interview on Monday, the young sailor responded to what he perceived to be negative political comments and something akin to prejudice in the government’s response to his colleagues’ particular dilemma – getting home amidst global border and airline restrictions.
“When you look on some of the comments on Facebook, people saying NDP (New Democratic Party) would do better close the borders. This is not the time for that. The way I see it, the government is trying to unite everybody to play a part in society. Am out here wanna come home [but] ‘close the borders.’ You’re saying you don’t give a damn about Vincentians outside especially sailor men and women.
“But I don’t like what Saboto Caesar wrote on Facebook either. I didn’t comment or say anything, I have respect for this guy what he done in terms of sports and getting involved in those activities. He wrote ‘if alyo sailor man love Saint Vincent alyo better stay home.’ Big minister should be doing that? If you wanna say something go about it in a mannerly way.
That’s what got a lot of sailors upset. Every Vincentian on every cruise company saw that post.
“Is not sailor men alone and women alone is coming inside the country but I guess they know that now. That disease don’t care if you sail or if you work on oil rig or pick fruits of even if you work in office. NDP or ULP (Unity Labor Party) you getting it, that’s the fact. This thing is serious really serious. I wanna be able to come home.”
PM Gonsalves told ANN, “in principle I have no problem at all with our nationals coming home, in fact if you are a citizen of a country I don’t think that the government can say that you can’t come home, lock off the borders from you. But in the circumstances, we have to make sure that any persons coming in such large numbers at this time, we have to have the right protocols.
“You know, they’ have to be tested before coming in and they can’t just say so; it has to be done by somebody independent. So the tests are done, they’re certified and still when they come here they would have to be quarantined for 14 days even though they tested negative for COVID and the company would have to pay for their quarantine and all the associated charges.”
Additionally the Vincentian Prime Minister mentioned the stipulation that, “any of them, of course, who have COVID we’d ask them to stay out until they’re tested again to say that they’re free.”
To this the Vincentian sailor responded, “well then we not coming home. Same they can test us, they have testing kits there. The other countries they are not doing that. It’s when you reach home they put you in quarantine. I don’t understand really. The point is being home. The longer we out here the more we are likely to get this thing.”
Prefacing a follow up voice note with his expressed desire to not “be disrespectful or anything,” the Norwegian Cruise Line crewman fingered the Philippines, Brazil and Indonesia as “more bigger” countries whose citizens were sent back home without fulfilling the prerequisites being tabled by the Dr. Gonsalves-led government.
“800 Filipinos off this ship alone and more are going to be dispatched from this ship without them being tested so what are you telling me if Philippines send for their people and Indonesia send for their people off this ship without them being tested so what is the Prime Minister implementing?
“What happen, this sound like a discrimination thing that people back home have for sailor man. Nobody from the Philippines discriminate them.
When they go home they’re going into quarantine [and] they’re being tested there so why we cannot have the same thing done for us too as Vincentians? This like is a discrimination thing. Is like sailor man is bringing home this thing. It’s nothing like that. I don’t understand this.”
The crewman further asserted, “I think these countries have love and care for their people more than the Caribbean countries. I understand that they are small and they don’t have the resources to deal with the virus but come on, come on man.
“You want to tell me there’s no love in the Caribbean anymore? Everybody discriminating – I don’t understand this. I think that the Prime Minister should be more like the Philippines government and then Vincentian people, they would love him more. That is my opinion. Be more like the Philippines government and implement strict rules, 24 hour lock down.
If you come on the street tell the police to shoot them I believe that they would love him more because I don’t understand this,” he said in some contrast to an early part of the interview.
At that point he reported on the adulations being showered on the local government for its refusal to close borders and relatively lax quarantine enforcement measures. “.… He said if he go home, he can’t be outside or the will get shot. He asked me if that happen in my country, I told him no. He said St. Vincent is the best, saying that the people don’t know how lucky they are…. Then countries started closing only St. Vincent was open. Everybody, on the ship, say we were lucky because everybody else was trapped here. Everybody say our government was very good.”