The Prime Minister has expressed disappointment in a newspaper column written by former opposition minister Bhoendradatt Tewarie in the Trinidad Guardian, which he says ignores Caricom’s efforts on Covid19 but salutes the effort of strangers.
Tewarie wrote that “Vaccine-grabbing, selfishness of rich countries and the lack of social conscience of international corporations, undermine every principle of sustainable development.
He added that “…Caribbean countries need to be heard on this matter” as “India and South Africa have already raised their voices. Other countries and regional bodies need to speak out.”
But, in response, Rowley pointed out to Tewarie that Caricom was the among the first to raise concern on the inequity of vaccine distribution.
Rowley said: “I take the trouble to send you these Caricom positions on the vaccine inequity situation so that you will not be able to say you don’t know so that next time when you write about the need for developing countries to speak up on the issue and you identify South Africa and India taking on that responsibility you will at least acknowledge that your country, your Caricom, have been in the forefront of sounding the alarm even before it became mainstream international news issues.”
Rowley pointed out that on January 13, Caricom issued a statement that it was deeply concerned at the current prospect of inequitable access to vaccines to address the pandemic, especially for frontline workers and vulnerable populations.
“The Caribbean Community therefore calls for a global summit in the context of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) ACT-A Facilitation Council to discuss equitable access and distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines.
“The inextricable link economically, socially, and by virtue of travel with our neighbours and the wider international community, makes it imperative for Caricom Member States to be afforded access to vaccines as a matter of urgent priority,” the statement said.
He added that on February 25, another statement was issued by Caricom calling for equitable access to vaccines in order to curb the impact of the pandemic.
The statement explained that heads of government noted that to date, even countries with the funds to purchase have been unable to procure and receive vaccines through commercial arrangements, given the relatively small volumes which they seek.
Rowley said as chairman of Caricom he appeared alongside Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization (WHO) making an appeal for vaccine equity and also took up the issue on national American media when he was the Frontline Speaker at the Atlantic Council.
Rowley indicated that at the recent heads of government meeting, with Trinidad and Tobago in the Chair, a decision was taken to raise the issue directly with world leaders with whom we have long standing relationships.
“As Chairman of Caricom, I wrote to PM Boris Johnson of the UK, President Biden of the United States and PM Trudeau of Canada. Contact was already made with PM Narendra Modi of India and Trinidad and Tobago has been in direct contact with many EU countries on the vaccine supply problem. A second Caricom letter has since gone off to President Joe Biden and I have a virtual meeting set up this week with senior Congresswoman Maxine Waters of the US,” Rowley pointed out.
The prime minister expressed disappointment in Tewarie’s article for ignoring Caricom’s efforts but saluting the effort of strangers.
“At least our effort and our stance have not gone completely unnoticed and have been acknowledged by CELAC and by Mexico last week. It is also to be said, as it is already noticed by some outside of Trinidad and Tobago, that we appear to be hampered by a not insignificant and consistent effort aimed at undermining the actions of the Government even as such actions damage the national interests,” the PM added.