THE PRIME Minister’s highly defensive stance during Wednesday’s sitting of Parliament raised more questions than answers when it comes to Government’s vaccination programme.
Dr Rowley’s failure to clarify the custody chain of Pfizer vaccines donated by the US as well as his failure to clarify whether he had been administered or allocated one of these doses set a poor precedent on transparency and accountability.
It was all the more disturbing given that it was Dr Rowley’s first appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions since he fell ill with covid19 in April.
Whatever the secret destination of the 80 Pfizer vials, the cat had already been let part of the way out of the bag.
Wednesday was an opportunity for the Government to clear the air definitively and to remove suspicions of favouritism or of a parallel vaccination programme in which a select few are granted access to what is seen as the most effective of all the vaccines currently available (the Pfizer jab has a 95 per cent efficacy rate, AstraZeneca 70 per cent.)
Dr Rowley described UNC MPs who asked him questions as “mischief-makers” and implied the questions put to him were “blatant lies.”
His reaction was disproportionate, given his own characterisation of this issue as being one of no mystery only a few days ago.
“It was so simple, so straightforward,” Dr Rowley last week told the media on the same matter. He said there was nothing to clarify because the matter was clear from day one.
This time around, in Parliament, the Prime Minister suggested he could not speak further because this would involve the Ministry of Health divulging patients’ details.
At the same time, he had no qualms deflecting queries by pointing fingers at Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar's health status through innuendo.
People have a right to ask questions, particularly of our leaders. If there is misinformation or misunderstanding, that adds even more urgency to their duty to clarify issues through clear responses.
There are often moments when national security interests or genuine sensitivities may arise. However, that threshold has not even been properly established on the threadbare facts known to us thus far on this matter.
In response to the Prime Minister, Ms Persad-Bissessar issued a statement saying she is not covid19-positive and has never contracted the virus.
However, her response was in some ways as bizarre as Dr Rowley’s. She could have set an appropriate tone for the entire topic by just giving a straightforward answer rather than claiming, yet again, the Prime Minister has a “creepy infatuation” with her.
While these leaders on Wednesday engaged in needless jabs, ordinary people are contracting and dying of covid19 at an alarmingly high rate in circumstances that are growing harder to account for with each passing day.