Both Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh and Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Amery Browne have chastised Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar on her letter to Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi.
During the Ministry of Health virtual press conference on Monday, Deyalsingh said he was disappointed that Persad-Bissessar, as a former prime minister, would seek to characterise TT as "reeling" from the effects of covid19.
“You may hate the government, but don’t hate TT,” he said. “A rolling seven-day average of five (cases) is not 'reeling.'”
Deyalsingh said both the Prime Minister and Browne had contacted their counterparts in India before Persad-Bissessar’s letter. “The high commission is (also) engaged in the matter. All diplomatic channels from the highest political office in the land have been engaged in this matter. Please be a part of the solution and not the problem.”
In her letter to Modi, Persad-Bissessar reportedly said she had repeatedly tried to contact Dr Rowley to encourage him to ask the Indian government for assistance by providing TT with AstraZeneca vaccines.
At the press conference, Deyalsingh also addressed opposition claims that the government is buying vaccines through local firms. “It is unfortunate that some members of the opposition still seek to tarnish the reputation of established firms in TT.”
He said the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) does not deal with individual firms.
“The consignee for the vaccines is the country…We don’t pass through a local party, agent, or distributor.”
He said, however, there will come a time where the vaccines will be commoditised and local entities will be able to import them "once they become available on a commercial basis.”
In a release from his ministry, Browne also lambasted Persad-Bissessar.
“This leader of the opposition has chosen to sacrifice protocol and good judgement and to tamper with the sound bilateral relations in a quest for relevance and attention.”
It said Persad-Bissessar is trying to put herself into the matter between the two governments.
“(It) must be seen for what it is: an attempt to position herself to claim in retrospect that her letter was the one that achieved any particular outcome.”
Browne also said almost every public statement made by the opposition about covid19 has been in defiance of modern science and reality.
“On the heels of the World Health Organization’s (WHOs) praise of our nation’s ongoing success in fighting the covid19 pandemic, it is unfortunate that (Persad-Bissessar) has now chosen to disregard protocol between states as well.”
Contacted for comment, UNC public relations officer Kirk Meighoo said Persad-Bissessar would address the letter in a meeting on Monday night.
Persad-Bissessar commented on the letter in a brief post to her Facebook page on Monday afternoon.
“Currently, thousands of our citizens are losing their jobs due to the economic lockdowns, and thousands more have been stranded abroad and barred from returning home. With no clear date as to when TT will be receiving an adequate supply of vaccines, I regard this issue as critically important to the well-being of our country.”
She said she took the decision in the interest of the people of TT.
“When the lives and livelihoods of citizens are at stake I will always act urgently in their interest, especially as the government, in this case, has clearly failed to do.”