Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday linked the candlelight and prayer vigils held in February for slain Andrea Bharatt to the spike in COVID-19 numbers.
During the debate on the Motion on Matters pertaining to the State of Emergency yesterday Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar once again questioned whether the Prime Minister was responsible for the climbing Covid-19 numbers when he invited people to go to Tobago for the Easter weekend.
Rowley sought to correct the statement and pointed fingers at the Opposition instead which he said was “organising” vigils in the middle of a pandemic.
“They asking for an investigation into how we got here. Be careful what you ask for because you will get it,” Rowley said.
Rowley’s contribution turned into a heated exchange with Opposition member Saddam Hosein who raised his voice over the Prime Ministers to say that the vigils were the family members of the victims of crime.
“You can shout as much as you like, that happened in this country,” Rowley said.
House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George rose to her feet during the exchange which usually signalled the speakers to sit down, but both men continued speaking and it Annisette-George who sat down, leaned back in her chair and stared straight ahead until Hosein stopped speaking and the Prime Minister continued.
“The only country, in the Caribbean, where in the middle of a pandemic, the Opposition organise gatherings of people called vigils. Thousands of people for a month trying to exploit the death of Andrea Bharatt and you asking me how we got here,” he said.
“What other gatherings took place?” he asked.
He said night after night the Opposition paid for vigils that brought people together during a pandemic.
The last reported public vigil for Bharatt was held on February 11 and some business voluntarily closed the next day in solidarity.
The first major Covid-19 spike occurred in mid-April.
“All of you who want to know what happened, go and examine what happened in March, that’s where the plan was derailed,” he said but gave no other details.
Rowley yesterday used his speaking time to correct what he said were several inaccuracies presented by the Opposition.
One of those inaccuracies was whether he met with Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to discuss a joint effort to fight COVID-19.
Rowley could not recall which member of the Opposition claimed that he never responded to Persad-Bissessar or that the two had not met.
“What were the facts? On March 20, the very day that the request was made, I as Prime Minister met here in my office and I carried with me the Member for AroucaMaloney and the Member for Port of Spain NorthSt ANn’s West and I met with the Member for Caroni East, the Opposition leader and the Member for Fyzabad,” he said.
“I can’t believe how one of my colleagues could call a press conference to say one year later there was no response. But that is the gist of what is being presented here today,” he said.
“The Opposition is taking the position to create doubt, create a new reality and give the impression that there is something else happening in T&T where the Government is to be held accountable,” he said.
Rowley said that the only thing to come out of that meeting was the Opposition suggested that the Government buy a stock of hydroxychloroquine which has been reported internationally as a treatment for malaria and suggested as a treatment for Covid-19.
Rowley joked that if he ever misled the House of Representatives the way that Persad-Bossessar did, he called on the Speaker of the House to take him to his wife “Sharon Rowley and pension me off”.
He said that while the Opposition kept saying the Government had no plan, it was the planned use of the parallel health care system that was currently “saving” the country.
He also sought to correct the issue of porous borders saying that there were over 200 places that illegal migrants can access land in a small boat.
He said that the security services have been dealing with illegal migrants but said that when they were taken to court, it was the UNC lawyers who were there to defend them.
“Talking from all sides of their mouth, from the back of their necks all around on these matters,” he said.
Rowley said that the country was doing “very well” in its fight.
“We are confident if we get the cooperation. especially from the people we anticipate it from, we expect numbers would fall, the numbers of deaths would fall,” he said.
The Motion on Matters pertaining to the SoE did not require Opposition support and yesterday passed in the House of Representatives.