As the first week under the SoE and the curfew in several areas closes, it appears to us that in general, the population and many organisations remain in favour of the conditions imposed upon us. Not unnaturally, objections to the SoE have come in the main from the opposition PNM and the trade unions which were challenging the Government over the past few weeks.
But before we analyse the different opinions abounding, we must pay tribute to the men and women of our Police Service, Defence Force and Fire and Prison Services Notwithstanding the fact that the men and women serving in these units were engaged in salary negotiations with Government, and were expressing unhappiness with the ongoing discussions, all have come forward in a time of crisis to serve their country. While we expected nothing less of these dedicated people, we nevertheless commend them, from senior officers to lower ranks, for their commitment to duty.
The first sign of their dependability was demonstrated three weeks ago, when members of the police service were called upon by their Welfare Association to stay off the job for one day to “rest and reflect” upon the wage negotiations. Their turnout on that day, however, was as high as any normal working day, and they demonstrated then that we could depend upon them. And we continue to do so today, with gratitude.
As we indicated, most of the formal groups in our society have issued statements in support of the declaration of the SoE, as have many individuals. Many have expressed concern about the effect that the curfew in particular is having upon sectors of business and consequently, upon employment. The hospitality and entertainment industries are being particularly hard hit, as restaurants, cinemas, concerts and fetes cannot operate as usual. This is a huge sector, not only of our economy, but also for our recreational release. We therefore urge the Government to see how soon they can at least lift the curfews while maintaining the SoE in its other forms.
To the critics, we point out that the least relevant must be the Opposition, and we would have made the same comment had the PNM been in government. Emergencies imposed by the PNM in the past never saw them consulting with anyone. Indeed, they did not tolerate the level of criticism in which they are currently engaged. We understand the concern of Labour, as they can feel that the SoE was at least partly directed against them and their current stand-offs against the Government. It is incumbent upon the government to demonstrate that this is not the case, save and except there is action or call of defiance from labour at this time.
But we need the Government to demonstrate that they have a goal in all this. The boasts about drug seizures, are, once again, limited to the capture of “mules” as described in our editorial of December 31, 2010. And evidence, not rhetoric, about deeper plots against the State are required, so we urge the Government to be as open with us all as they possibly can under the circumstances.