We support and encourage all initiatives to provide relief to hurricane victims in the region and see Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s announcement of special support to citizens of Dominica as a good example of how we can offer crucial support in our neighbour’s time of need.
In announcing the relaxation of immigration rules for Dominican citizens on Thursday, Rowley cited an old saying, “A house is never too small for family.” To this we add another: we can all see today, but we cannot see tomorrow. Who knows if one day the shoe will be on the other foot?
As with most policy initiatives, there has been some degree of scepticism in response on social media, motivated ostensibly by concerns over security, economic considerations and even fears of voter-padding.
Yet, what has been announced is not a complete waiving of immigration rules for Dominicans – who already enjoy a special status as Caricom nationals. Rather, the measure is one which simply makes it easier for Dominicans eligible to come here and stay a little longer provided they have adequate local ties.
As for economic considerations, it cannot be in the interest of any free-market block to see fellow trade partners left to oblivion. In the long run, it is in Trinidad and Tobago’s interest to see our markets recover from the utter devastation wrought. According to a recent estimate by the World Trade Organisation, this country is Dominica’s top trading partner in terms of volume of imports and exports (approximately 19 per cent).
Even disaster-struck Antigua stands ready to assist Dominica.
As for fears of voter-padding, that risk is a matter which is always a hypothetical possibility, whether Dominicans come or not. We have a robust electoral system which has checks and balances and is even reviewable by the courts. These checks and balances are more than enough to allay hypothetical fears that likely have more to do with xenophobia than any genuine concern for elections at large.
We also commend all those NGOs and private business organisations that have mobilised relief efforts alongside official measures adopted by the State. Even the TT Cricket Board is organising a charity Twenty20 match featuring a Red Force XI and Regional XI to aid our Caribbean neighbours.
This degree of goodwill is a reminder of the mood that prevailed after the devastating earthquake in Haiti of 2010.
The State’s decision to facilitate schoolchildren from Dominica at local schools is also a thoughtful addition to the package of aid given. We look forward to the rolling out of the details of all of these measures in the coming days so that citizens can quickly take steps to welcome our brothers and sisters from Dominica.
But we must remember that the hurricane season is not over yet. While we have been lucky to escape relatively unscathed thus far, we must be prepared for the possibility of further storm activity.
Already some experts are predicting additional hurricanes, beyond that of Jose and Maria. Hurricane season runs through November 30, and it is plausible that more tropical storms might form right up to the wire, perhaps even into December.
Whether God is a Trini or not, it is always better to be prepared than not. In the face of any incoming storm, windows should be guarded, homes protected from flooding as much as possible, loose objects should be secured, appliances prepared for power outages, and home inventories prepared. It is useful to devise a hurricane preparedness checklist for your household.
We can do all of this while we have the luxury to do so. And we can also be our brother’s keeper, knowing that one day we may find ourselves in need.