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When a pastor gets on the podium to preach a sermon, they usually hope to win the hearts of the unbelievers or those of little faith. Among the last people they expect need convincing, is the choir.

But it seems like that was exactly the situation this past week in the Tobago House of Assembly’s Division of Finance—a choir that just hasn’t been hearing the sermon.

Just days earlier, the Government, through its highest executive, Tobago homeboy Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, was urging that office parties of any sort should not happen at this time—definitely not in the public service and advisably not in the private sector either.

But what emerged through a cellphone video that was uploaded on social media platforms for all to see, was what was initially thought to be a party but what we now know was a divisional team-building event.

Perhaps the organisers of the event felt that by not actually calling it a party, it was okay for dozens of people to gather closely—some without masks—dancing and frolicking in the exact manner that they’ve been told not to do.

Perhaps the organisers and participants felt that because it was not a “zesser” event, because it wasn’t being held at a private high-end pool, or because it wasn’t a bougie Valsayn wedding, it could somehow masquerade as less of a problem in the current scheme of COVID protocol issues.

This is the very type of message health officials have been trying to get the congregation to understand—it matters not what you call it, who is doing it, or where it’s being done, gatherings in large numbers with little or no social distancing and without masks are just what’s needed for COVID-19 to spread.

And while we’ve frowned upon those who have openly flouted the instructions and regulations, it’s an even bigger disappointment when those doing the wrong come from within a government institution—in this case, as high as the THA’s Finance Division.

When presented with the video, Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis was quick to condemn the behaviours seen in it.

“It was quite unfortunate that public servants are apparently engaging in this kind of behaviour, the same behaviour that we are trying to discourage citizens generally from participating in,” Dennis said.

He urged other Tobagonians not to follow this example, warning that they would “get in trouble” and assuring that the Division of Finance, led by Secretary Joel Jack, will respond accordingly.

The division must come clear on why this was allowed to happen, particularly at a time when the outcry has been so strong against others for similar activities.

As a department involved in the governance of Tobago, it ought to be leading the way for others, by being faithful to the sermons of their leaders.

They’ve shown, however, that clearly, there’s need for the pastor to turn around more often and preach louder to the choir.