In the hours after armed insurrectionists attempted to take over Trinidad and Tobago in July 1990, one of the defining moments of that dark and uncertain time was provided by Roman Catholic Archbishop Anthony Pantin.
On NBS Radio 610, the only radio station that was still able to broadcast, he offered words of comfort and encouragement and then sang the National Anthem. It was an expression of patriotism, a timely reminder to citizens during the still unfolding coup attempt of the strength of our identity as a nation.
Encouragement and strength were desperately needed then, as the country’s armed forces positioned around our seat of democracy, the Red House, fought to restore stability.
For the people of the United States, such a defining moment came after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. After evacuating the Capitol earlier in the day, approximately 150 members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, assembled on the building’s front steps and after observing a moment of silence over the day’s tragedies, broke into an impromptu rendition of “God Bless America.”
During difficult times, images of leaders, whether political, religious or otherwise, standing strong and conveying messages of hope can be an important source of inspiration.
T&T faces such a moment now, not from an assault on our democracy, but from a deadly pathogen that has so far claimed the lives of 265 of our citizens and brought the public health system to breaking point.
With every day bringing even worse news about the pandemic than the day before, what this nation needs is strength and unity from our leaders. Unfortunately, such expressions have not been forthcoming during this devastating third wave of COVID-19.
This week, images of field hospitals being erected on the grounds of the Couva Hospital and at the Jean Pierre Complex stirred up some anxiety about the possible collapse of the health system. But instead of assurances from political leaders, there was an uncalled-for display of brinkmanship over which side should claim credit for the facilities provided by the US government.
This needless partisan toing and froing took place while the population was absorbing an alarming spike in COVID-19 fatalities, including two sisters dying within days of each other and on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, the leader of the Tableland ASJA Mosque, Imam Nazrudeen Mohammed.
No one has been spared the pain of this pandemic. Citizens not directly affected by bereavement are experiencing other types of losses.
The gravity of the situation was further highlighted yesterday when the T&T Chamber, the country’s largest business group, called for a strict curfew and more drastic lockdown measures to deal with the exponential increase in cases.
Enlightened and inspired leadership is needed to take the nation through these dark days. What T&T needs to hear from the Government and Opposition are messages that comfort, motivate and provide guidance.
COVID-19 has demonstrated that it is no respecter of political or other allegiances as it decimates families and communities. Our leaders should be sensitive to that fact and provide an inspirational and defining moment to get us past this crisis.