By: Demion McTair. Updated 6:28 a.m., Tuesday April 28, 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
Kingstown, St. Vincent (ONE NEWS SVG) – Opposition Leader, Dr. Godwin Friday says “it is our responsibility” to look after Vincentian Sailors once they arrive in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Dr. Friday was speaking last night (April 27), at the first New Democratic Party – NDP Monday Night LIVE, hosted by Colin Graham.
His comments add to the ongoing national discussion about funding for the quarantine of more than 300 Vincentian crew who are set to return home from ships, as the COVID-19 pandemic hits the cruise industry.
Referring to ongoing negotiations between the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and a cruise line, Dr. Friday said Vincentian cruise ship workers want to come home and “they are not being permitted now to come… because the government and the company can’t come to some agreement as to how they would repatriate our people”.
He said, however, that “it is our responsibility if the company is bringing them here, delivering them to our shores, it is our responsibility to look after them once they’re here”.
Mr. Graham, the host of the program asked Dr. Friday: one would ask though, well then how do we, from a financial standpoint, how do we accommodate them? How do we deal with that? I mean, we’ve heard from the government their stimulus package and monies being allocated, but then how would we… how important and how necessary would it be to shift monies around and put monies where they are needed, for example, in a case in point, with these sailors coming home?”
Dr. Friday responded saying: “Yeah, well Colin, you know, it is a question of prioritizing things and this to me is a priority. These are human beings who are in difficult circumstances. Their family members here, you know they are concerned about them, they’re worried about them. The cruise ship workers are one but you also have those persons who work on the oil rigs, you know, in the Golf of Mexico there and, Louisiana and Mississippi. Some of them they’re stuck there, they have not been working because their work was terminated and more of them probably will because with oil prices being so low, the rigs may stop drilling” – Dr. Friday said.
“But, we have to look out for them too and say how we’re gonna get them home. The students who are in Cuba who wish to come home, the students who are in Jamaica, these are our nationals, we have to facilitate…” – Dr. Friday added.
On April 25, Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves, in a statement to the families and connections of Vincentian seafarers said: “I want you to be assured that we are doing our best, we are hard at it, I myself am involved. I have spoken to a number of different officials engaged, Bishen John is the person at the port authority whom I’ve appointed to address this matter”.
Dr. Gonsalves added:
“I want you to ignore a lot of falsehood that you are seeing propagated on social media, or people who are sending posts of one kind or another. It’s not helpful and don’t go about doing anything to undermine the discussions and the negotiations which we are having. Just be calm and we are trying to resolve what is a difficult situation”.
In his statement last night, Dr. Friday asked: “what is going to change in the next month or two to their circumstances that would make it any better than bringing them home now?”
“The same urgency to bring them home in fact will be greater in a month because their circumstances will not have been any different because the cruise ships are not going to suddenly start to be filling up with passengers and they’re going back to work” – Dr Friday added.
Negotiations between the government and the cruise lines are ongoing.