“First of all I have absolutely no interest in a village dog fight with Keith Mitchell. That’s what that is. The truth is, he initiated this village dog fight, but I don’t think he initiated it out of any malice, I think he was badly advised because for about ten days now if you come here from any country you’d be required to go under quarantine for 14 days.” Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told Asbert News Network, exclusively last Sunday, as he weighed in on what some are calling the continuing legacy of disagreements between the two OECS Leaders .
This most recent parry of cross border Prime Ministerial discordant exchanges were facilitated through the media as each country’s leader expressed his thoughts as to the sundry impacts of each country’s COVID-19 response on the other.
On April 6 the Grenadian Prime Minister told his island state’s media of his fears concerning the effect of SVG’s continuing open border policy on his administrations COVID-19 strategy. The Maurice Bishop International Airport (GND) and the Lauriston Airport (CRU) were closed for all passenger traffic from March 23.
An additional measure imposed by the Grenadian authorities was to ban visitors from entering their country whose travel history proved they were in any of 36 countries, including: China Italy, Spain, the U.S and U.K, within 14 days of the arrival to Grenada.
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines on March 14 Dr. Gonsalves proposed reduced air travel tariffs and implored Vincentian hoteliers to offer discounts so as to drive up business in the local travel and accommodations sector.
“Effective March 19, all persons arriving from China, European Union (including Italy, the Overseas Departments of France), Iran, South Korea, USA (including USVI and PR), Canada and the UK will be subjected to mandatory 14 days quarantine.
“Effective March 28, all arriving passengers who meet the quarantine requirement will be required to sign an Undertaking to Quarantine form issued by the Ministry of National Security, Air and Seaport Development. All persons with a travel history including countries not listed will only be allowed into SVG once no symptoms of COVID-19 are exhibited. [And] quarantine on non-residents will be at a cost of the traveler,” a dispatch from the Barbados based US Embassy chronicled as it provided an update of the Eastern Caribbean’s COVID-19 Status as of April 9.
The Vincentian Prime Minister, now nearing the end of his fourth 5 years term, qualified Prime Minister Mitchell’s April 6 jab as a reaction to “old propaganda” which served to misdirect him on the status of SVG’s border control policy at that time.
“He probably listened to the old propaganda that Ralph have the borders open. In any case Union Island was closed to everything except legitimate trade. But if you came ashore you had to be quarantined for 14 days. So that’s the first big mistake that Keith made.
“The second one is that clearly he did not hear what I said; somebody must have told him because I said that they are our brothers and sisters in Carriacou and Petite Martinique and if they need food or gas or medicine we will help. But it has to be done in a structured manner,” Gonsalves told ANN on Sunday.
One day following Gonsalves’ offer to help, the Grenadian Prime Minister’s return volley was a curt reminder, “it is alarming that our citizens will be called upon to break the law by the leader of another country. It is grossly irresponsible and has the potential for not only legal consequences but also pose a significant threat to public health and public safety.
“My fellow Grenadians, particularly our brothers and sisters in Carriacou and Petite Martinique, do not be misguided into flouting the law of the land; do not knowingly endanger your health and that of your family. I encourage you to think and act wisely.
“There is no shortage of food and we are continuously revising our operations to ensure that we optimize the distribution of goods and restocking of grocery stores.”
Via ANN on Sunday Dr. Gonsalves rhetorically lobbed back, “how can you move from I saying let’s do it in a structured manner to you going now to say that I encouraging them to come? I never encouraged them to come! Not in the way Keith Mitchell saying it. I said we will help but we will help in a structured manner.
“I understand that there are problems, when you lock down, with food and medicine and so on. Look, Petite Martinique people have been coming over to St. Vincent all the time to buy food and to buy medicines and same thing with Carriacou.
“And since the lock down in Grenada they have been coming because if they want food, folks would supply the food stuff for them.”
We asked Prime Minister Gonsalves to explain his definition of “help in a structured manner.” He said, “a structured manner could be where individuals in Carriacou and Petite Martinique organize on the telephone or the internet with somebody that they’ve been dealing with all the time, tell them ‘we’re coming in to buy and so can you bring them in boxes on the pier?’ And let them be delivered there so that there’s very little contact with one another and they would make the payments.
“Or, the [Grenadian] governmental authority can do it in relation with another governmental authority in St. Vincent. The Director of Grenadine Affairs, he’s down in Union Island and if they want more stuff than they have at the time in Union Island we could always send down stuff.
“So it could be done as a normal private trade because remember … the people who [come to] buy the stuff they don’t come ashore. In much the same way we send provisions to Trinidad and the boat men don’t go ashore.
“Doing the thing in a structured way is not anything that is novel. It happens all the time and if they want to include the governmental authority we have the Director of Grenadine Affairs, Edwin Snagg, and he himself has a business down there….
“All of us have an interest in the people in Carriacou and Petite Martinique to get food, medicine, gas. I don’t want to break Keith Mitchell regulations that he has. I’m not that kind of person. Clearly, neither the quarantine nor the lockdown is as effective as they should be because fellas leaving by boat and coming and buying things.”