Dominicans, let's dream about defeating COVID-19 in 30 minutes
"With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.
With this faith we will be able to transform the genuine discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
With this faith we will be able to work together, pray together; to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom forever, knowing that we will be free one day".
… "I have a dream"- the speech delivered by American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28, 1963.
This is our COVID-19 dream. That one day, soon, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and Opposition Leader Lennox Linton and all the leaders of the fringe political parties (the Dominica Freedom Party and the Alternative People's Party) will take a much-publicized walk together down Kennedy Avenue to the Dame Eugenia Boulevard in Roseau for a "Fight Against COVID" national campaign.
In that dream too, Skerrit and Linton and the other politicians will be joined on the walk by Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of the Roman Catholic Church and Pastor Randy C. Rodney, the senior pastor of Truth and Grace Fellowship Global and other leaders of major religious denominations.
Additionally, on that walk to symbolize that great need for togetherness in the battle against the pandemic, there would be Thomas Letang and other leaders of trade unions, the Chief of the Kalinago Territory, and other leaders of towns and village councils and all major groups of civil society.
The point is this: there has been a lot of talk these days about Dominicans coming together to combat the virus that killed its first victim in Dominica last week.
But while Mr. Skerrit and other local leaders have spoken multiple times of the need for all Dominicans to help in the fight against COVID-19 not much is being done to bring the nation together.
"Let us unite and contain the spread of Covid in Dominica," said PM Skerrit in his address to the nation on Saturday, August 21st, 2021 without saying how this could be done.
But frankly, we are of the view that there has been much too much politicizing of the COVID- 19 pandemic in Dominica and across the world.
"The politicization of Covid added a new and dangerous layer to things," Jerome Adams, who served as surgeon general during the Trump administration, told The Post recently.
And we agree.
In fact, we blame party politics for the dangerous attitude of some Dominicans towards the Covid-19 measures and protocols including the taking of vaccines. To illustrate our point, here's a sample from social media of the dangerous attitude that party politics endangers.
"When ham and turkey was sharing it was for one set… all kinda material n money was passing undercover for one set… but now alu want to give EVERYBODY allu vaccine for FREE… hold it fr allu self and ENJOY!"
But we must persuade persons like the one quoted above, and others, that we must give peace a chance, we must ignore the political and religious divisiveness of the past, we must agree that Dominica needs a bipartisan all-on-board approach in the battle against COVID-19. We all swim together or we all drown together.
Remember that the virus is blind to political colours and forms of religious worship. Bob Marley made the point well when he sang in the 1977 hit song "So much things to say":
"Oh, when the rain fall, fall, fall now
It won't fall on one man's housetop, remember that
When the rain fall
It won't fall on one man's housetop". In his speech to the nation on Saturday, Prime Minister argues that he believes that "many of us dropped our guard and let our defenses down. I believe that we got a little comfortable and complacent."
But we contend that the government must take some responsibility for that complacency by consistently boasting that Dominica was doing exceptionally well in the fight against COVID-19. The people reasoned incorrectly that if we are doing so well why bother wearing masks and social distancing.
Additionally, the government's messages have been inconsistent, contradictory, and opaque. For instance, the Ministry of Health has been holding press briefings, and members of the press are not invited to ask questions-information is just rammed down the public's throat by speakers at a podium; Prime Minister Skerrit addresses the nation on COVID-19 exclusively on "friendly" radio stations; only parliamentary representatives of the ruling party are seen and heard promoting the use of vaccines or the adherence to the protocols; over the past few months, the government's press has shown the President of Dominica, Prime Minister, Cabinet and top civil servants taking the jab, but where are the photographs of the Leader of Opposition, Lennox Linton, and the other leaders of opposition parties? What is the communication strategy here?
So, we have been missing the point - we could be doing much better if we take a bipartisan approach to the fight against this deadly virus. The point is, the government cannot do it alone in the battle against COVID-19; we need the cooperation of every citizen; party politics must take a back seat for a while.
In spite of the boast that Dominica was doing exceptionally well in the fight against COVID-19, as the figures seemed to imply, there were worrying signs that Dominicans had become lackadaisical about COVID-19 even as the virus mutates into new and more virulent strains.
For instance, Dominicans were taking lightly Ministry of Health protocols such as social distancing the correct wearing of masks, quarantine, curfews, gathering limits, and other restrictions on entertainment and events.
Before the latest spike, Dominica appeared to be doing rather well in terms of the number of cases of COVID-19, and zero deaths, but that was, arguably, a reflection of a number of factors that are beyond the island's control.
These factors, we suggest, include a very low total population that was probably halved following the exodus after Hurricane Maria in 2017. Government is apparently unaware of the number of its citizens who left and did not return after the devastation of category five Hurricane Maria; if the government knows these statistics it has been very successful at keeping that a national secret. But the post-Maria exodus has greatly affected Dominica's population density which was already comparatively low. COVID-19 is more likely to spread in densely populated areas. Government must, therefore, note that large apartment buildings and COVID-19 do not go together and thus revise its housing policy.
Generally, Dominicans must also acknowledge that the economic and social development of the country has struggled greatly and continues to suffer immensely because of heightened levels of tribal politics. Even between election campaigns, it seems, our political leaders are locked in the vice grip of inflexible positions; they constantly rejoice in the vilification of their opponents.
"Embracing bipartisanship does not require leaders to alter their political principles or support policy proposals that they fundamentally oppose. But it does require them to ensure that their responsibility to govern is not paralyzed by their ideology or undercut by their pursuit of partisan political advantage", the Lugar Center suggests.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its economic and social devastation, now is an opportune time for our politicians to give peace, and bipartisanship, a chance in the fight against COVID-19.
Let's make our COVID-19 dream a reality.