By Nathan “Jolly” Green
There are 300 Vincentian professional seamen caught up in the coronavirus pandemic.
Their employers have been housing them on cruise ships, and the men and women want to go home to St. Vincent. The employers have stated their willingness to get them, at the company’s cost, back to St. Vincent. Surely, at that moment of stepping on Vincentian soil, they are the responsibility of the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. How can the cruise companies be responsible from there on for the keeping of these people in quarantine in SVG?
Getting them home is undoubtedly the responsibility of the ship companies, and they are good enough to arrange and fund that. They gave our people jobs, and in most cases, good, well-paid jobs. They have allowed them to stay onboard company ships in the best of their accommodation, staterooms even. They have fed them three square meals a day and snacks and drinks in between.
Asking the cruise ship companies to pay for these Vincentians to stay in quarantine in SVG is little more than blackmail. The danger is the government’s behaviour in this matter will more than likely exclude these sailors from ever working for the cruise employers again.
My mind goes back to how the most prestigious medical school in the Caribbean, St. Georges, perhaps the hemisphere were driven out of SVG by this very same government. Eventually replaced by three lower-rated schools, of which the student spending power on the island is a fraction of what the St. Georges students possessed. The short-sightedness of this government, or is it one man who seems to stagger from crisis to crisis, is amazing.
The real problem is that SVG is broke; they cannot afford to pay for anything. Yet somehow or other, they will be able to give away $20 million in building materials to their supporters before this year’s election. Paying for these people to stay in quarantine is only around $1 million.
The government is taking on weekly basis money from countries and organisations well more than this amount.
What government in the world demands that their citizens returning can only do so if they have a certificate of health from a proper chartered authority? That is the most unreasonable thing I have ever heard. These people have subscribed multi-millions over the years to their families and the state of SVG. Whatever you wish to do when they get here is one thing, but saying they cannot come home without a certificate, to a country in which they are part owners, is disgusting. The ship-owners will be afraid to bring them in case they are denied entry.
Even the humblest man in the street knows right from wrong, but it seems, not our prime minister.