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T&T PM dismisses criticism over CARICOM aid offer

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley Wednesday criticised persons whom he said had been spreading rumours that his administration had turned down offers from Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries in the aftermath of the flood situation caused by torrential rains over the past few days.

“What is wrong with us? When my CARICOM colleagues, all of whom, from Suriname to Jamaica, called to commiserate with us and they said well if you need help we here, it is like somebody saying to you, 'how you do' and you start reading out your medical condition and the last visit to the doctor,” Rowley told the audience at the sod turning ceremony for a new health centre in Diego martin, west of here.

“These are not questions that require an answer. It wasn't meant that they were going to hand us a cheque. It meant they were acknowledging we were in difficulty and they were standing with us firstly in spirit and secondly if physically they could contribute then they would,” Rowley said, adding “we are coping and we are coping very well”.

A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister on Monday had indicated that Prime Minister Rowley, who is celebrating his 69thbirthday, had been contacted by several CARICOM leaders, including Jamaica's Prime Minister and CARICOM Chairman, Andrew Holness, as well as his colleagues from Barbados, Dominica and Grenada. Rowley also met with Guyana's President David Granger.

Rowley said Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro had also made contact with Port of Spain.

“The regional leaders have expressed their concern for the people of Trinidad and Tobago as we grapple with the effects of the floods due to this unusually protracted period of inclement weather. They have all indicated that they are on standby to assist the people of Trinidad and Tobago in the event that requests for assistance are forthcoming,” Rowley said in the statement.

It said that he expressed thanks to the leaders “and indicated that difficult as it is, we are coping for the moment through Government agency responses and private outpourings from persons across the nation”.

The announcement by the Office of the Prime Minister was greeted with criticism in some quarters with the main opposition United National Congress (UNC), through its chairman, David Lee saying that the country should accept any offer of aid given the magnitude of the flood damage.

“If the regional countries are offering assistance in whatever way, we should have gladly accepted because it takes two hands to clap,” Lee told the Trinidad Express newspapers.

But Rowley told the ceremony that he saw nothing wrong in his response to his regional colleagues on their offers.

“Trinidad and Tobago, in the face of great difficulties in the eastern and central part of the country, we are coping and we are coping very well,” he said, adding “there are those who were finding negative things to say in the midst of the disaster”.

“It is easy for persons to criticise and in a moment of triumph where our national spirit rose higher than most had expected…some people will find some way to dim that light.”

“People in this country miserable you know? Cantankerous, you know? To the extent where sometimes they miss the flowers and they miss the gentle breezes.

“They can find the way, if given a chance, to make negatives out of every possible thing,” Rowley said, adding that he wanted to use the occasion to clarify “a couple of things for the benefit of the national community.”

In his address, Rowley recounted some of the stories told to him by people during his visits to affected areas. Many he said, told him how close they came to death.

“It happened so quickly to those in the buildings but then people say the Coast Guard and army weren't there,” he said, noting that there was very little that could have been done to prevent the flooding, as his government moved forward it would learn from the experience.

“Let us not pull ourselves down. As we go forward, let us be grateful as a people,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health is dismissing reports that several people had died from Leptospirosis as a result of the floods.

In a statement, it said it had taken note “with concern, the social media video of a news report alleging that there have been recent deaths from Leptospirosis at the San Fernando General Hospital.

“Members of the public are asked to note that is based on an old news report and therefore sharing the video encourages public misinformation. The Ministry of Health reiterates that, at this time, there are no confirmed reports of death due to the current flooding.”

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