Former prime minister and political leader of the UNC Basdeo Panday says he has no answer as to why TT has not received covid19 vaccines from India but did note people felt there were "racial overtones" to the issue.
Responding to questions during an open floor discussion at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Cultural Cooperation, Mt Hope, on Friday, Panday was asked to give his opinion on reports pertaining to TT's difficulties in receiving vaccines. The event was an interview with Panday, the theme of which was Memories of India.
While he said he could not comment on what the current government would have encountered in their efforts, Panday did note allegations of racism being put forward on the issue.
"I don't have an answer for that. That is a question that should be directed to the Indian High Commissioner.
"People believe there are some racial overtones in this covid19 vaccine thing but I don't know about that."
Last Sunday, the Prime Minister claimed there was an uneven distribution of covid19 vaccines, describing it as a "vaccine apartheid."
Asked how he would have dealt with the issue of sourcing vaccines if he were still prime minister, Panday said while he did not want to speak much on the issue he would have ensured free vaccines were available to TT.
The Prime Minister on Thursday said TT was not invited to be part of any free vaccination programme by India and said asking for "a gift" amounted to begging.
During his opening remarks, Indian High Commissioner Arun Kumar Sahu said his country took pride in being able to lend support through their inventions, noting their role in distributing covid19 vaccines. He also noted that the only vaccines to come to the Caribbean were from India and was happy support was being extended to the region.
Panday said there was much to learn from the scientific and technological advancements of India, and called on the government and citizens to make full use of the diplomatic ties between the country and TT.
He said India’s progress in the fields of medicine, agriculture and information technology made them a valuable ally and hoped people would learn from the country’s innovative spirit.
Recalling his visit to India as prime minister in 1997, Panday said he was impressed with the country’s rich history of scientific development noting their people’s skills in different areas.
“The first thing India is the people are always doing something in order to improve their lives. In many ways India has become very efficient in technology, there is a lot of technology that has been developed in India.
“There's a tremendous amount to learn because there are so many places in India that are climatically similar to TT and so I think we can benefit enormously to learn from them and what they have achieved.”
Panday said he hoped the discussion would dispel the false narrative of the country as weak and poverty-stricken. He noted negative perceptions of India may be due to ignorance or deliberately peddled by some western countries that see the country’s growing power as a threat.
The interview was moderated by senior lecturer in history for the College of Science Technology and Applied Arts of TT Dr Radhica Mahase and was the first event of the Indian High Commission’s 75 weeks of celebration which will mark India’s 75th Independence Day on August 15.