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David Abdulah

Mere days before government seeks to extend the State of Emergency (SoE), Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah says the SoE is being used as a smokescreen to cover the Government’s failures.

During a virtual press conference on Sunday, Abdulah made it clear that the MSJ does not support an extension to the SoE.

The Government will on Wednesday raise a motion to have the SoE extended for another three months and this does not require Opposition support.

Abdulah said: “We are very concerned that the Government is going to use the SoE as a mechanism to control the population that is increasingly dissatisfied in the way in which the Government has managed the economic crisis and the social crisis in the country.”

Noting that those crises existed before the pandemic, he added: “We had businesses in the energy sector being closed. We had workers being sent home before the COVID-19 pandemic. We had poverty in the country before the COVID-19 pandemic.”

However, he said what COVID-19 has exposed all the weaknesses and problems of our society.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has ripped the masks of the country’s problems so as we mask up to deal with COVID, COVID has unmasked the problems that the country has.”

He said the government has failed to implement the Roadmap for Recovery and other proposals and engage all sectors of the national security in a national effort to reconstruct and transform the country.

As a consequence, he said there is more suffering and pain in the country. “And, as a fig leaf to cover its failure, as a smokescreen of its failure, the government wants to extend the State of Public Emergency which would then see the rights of citizens to assembly, to protest and so on, those rights have been denied by the State of Public Emergency and that is the danger and we think that that is absolutely wrong.”

The MSJ, he added, is also concerned about the government presenting a budget within an SoE.

“It will mean that whatever measures it announces in the budget that might see fundamental restructuring of the economy and of the society along what we call neo-liberal lines or neoliberal policies which means policies which benefit a few at the expense of many. Policies such as privatisation, policies such as the liberalisation of the fuel market and things like that, that might see the price of fuels go up and other policies that will see more gain for the few and more pain for the many…”

Also responding to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s comment that people’s foolishness stalled the country’s diversification, he said the issue of diversification has been on the agenda for decades.

“So the statement was foolish by the Prime Minister and really was seeking to place blame on others for his government’s and other governments’ failure to implement policies and plans and programmes that have been developed over the years to diversify the economy.”

Noting also a recent press conference in which Finance Minister Colm Imbert was “boasting” about the country’s financial and credit ratings, he said: “He could boast about the country’s credit ratings but what about people who have no savings who can’t access a loan because they have no creditworthiness, ordinary people, small businesses, micro-enterprises who have exhausted their credit with the banks and can’t get any other assistance from the financial institutions to give them some cash flow to restart their businesses and employ people and get economic activity going?”