Friday 3 April, 2020

Pierre on coronavirus threat: “I would do things much differently”

Opposition Leader Philip J Pierre

Opposition Leader Philip J Pierre

Opposition Leader Philip Pierre says he would have done things much differently if he were prime minister during the coronavirus pandemic.

The opposition leader made the comments ahead of Tuesday’s sitting of parliament where the Emergency Powers Disaster (COVID-19) Order and the imposition of a state of emergency in light of the virus was approved.

This measure gives Prime Minister Allen Chastanet wide-ranging powers to make critical decisions without seeking the approval of Cabinet or Parliament as the island goes on the offensive against the highly contagious coronavirus.

“I would do things much differently,” Pierre disclosed to reporters.

While he says the opposition will support the government's declaration of the state of emergency, the SLP, he noted, will remain vigilant in ensuring that the government does not abuse their power.

According to him, “Under certain circumstances, we should initiate it but it is a matter of trust. The issue that people are having is whether they trust the government to have these powers.”

“It means that we must change the way we do things, it means that the power we think we have we don’t have it, we just have to change the way we do things. We have to take it as a message to change the way that we do things,” Pierre said.

When questioned about the rush to fully commission the Owen King EU Hospital due to the pandemic, Pierre had this to say.

“My position has been clear on OKEU, on St Jude, my position has been clear and it’s the same way my position has been clear on the airport…IT IS CLEAR.”

“I don’t want to boast about vindication, you know my position, other people have written about my position, they’ve criticized my position in a serious way…My position is clear. I don’t want vindication, I just want Saint Lucia to survive.”

Following the full transition to the OKEU Hospital, the Victoria Hospital will be used as a respiratory hospital for COVID-19.

On Monday, during a press conference, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sharon Belmar George announced Saint Lucia’s third case of the virus.

Now that local authorities have the capacity and capabilities to test for the virus domestically, confirmed cases may increase.

“We have just started to test just now and the testing could cause a lot of other things to happen, so I think what we can do is not talk about the numbers but talk about containment, and containment means I have to behave as if I have it, and you have to behave as you have it so that we can save ourselves,” Pierre declared.

This is the second time in history that Saint Lucia is experiencing a declaration of a State of Emergency.

In 1957 there were riots in the sugar estates of the Dennery Valley where workers were revolting against the poor working conditions and low wages. The estates, at the time, were owned by Denis Barnard. The leader of the insurrection was none other than the first prime minister of Saint Lucia, Sir John Compton.

Regional police, as well as sailors from a British warship, were employed to restore law and order.

Sir John Compton was detained but later released after the situation returned to normal.

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