By Demion McTair. Updated 10:33 p.m., Monday May 11, 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
Kingstown, St. Vincent (ONE NEWS SVG) – The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), has offered to use its platform to raise funds to help repatriate Vincentian students in Jamaica.
Opposition Leader, Dr. Godwin Friday, said on NDP Monday Night LIVE on May 11, that “we should make it possible, feasible [and] affordable for students to come home” – referring to students in Cuba and Jamaica.
Specific to the students in Jamaica, Dr. Friday said the position of the students to pay what they “would normally pay” to travel home, and that “somebody else should pick up the tab for it and help”, “is fair”.
At the end of second semester, students would normally pay around US $400 for a one-way ticket from Jamaica to St. Vincent. But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only charters are currently available.
The students in Jamaica are faced with proposals of US $1339, and US $975 per ticket from LIAT, and Fly One Caribbean Airline, respectively, for one-way charters home.
Host of the program, Mr. Colin Graham asked Dr. Friday: “would you be willing to help to organize and mobilize funds for the students?”, to which Dr. Friday replied: “absolutely, if we can use this platform to help to raise funds, if that’s the only way to do it, then naturally, we should do so”.
He added: “because I don’t believe in having you know, the students there, you know, and they become pawns or some part of some political drama. The things is just get them home”.
“And, if this platform can help, at least to raise the level of awareness about it, but also to raise funds, other persons have talked about ways in which they could raise funds to assist them, I mean, I would be quite willing to assist in that regard” – he further stated.
He said, however, that “the students have to request to do it”, and the parents, referring to efforts to raise funds.
“I don’t want to infringe on anybody’s rights or feelings or anything of that sort. They want assistance and the students have called out for assistance, those in Cuba, similarly, because they are running out of supplies and we should do all that we can to assist them and I would like to be able to to be of assistance in that regard” – the opposition leader further stated.
SKIP TO 11:11 MINUTES INTO THE FOLLOWING CLIP TO HEAR THE FULL REMARKS OF THE OPPOSITION LEADER ON THE MATTER:
The Vincentian students are currently stuck on campuses in Jamaica, which have all moved classes online for the rest of the semester, eliminating the need for them to be on the campuses.
At least 70 students expressed an interest in travelling home, Vincentian students told One News SVG.
One News SVG understands that for a considerable number of them, their housing contracts will expire on or about May 15, thus attracting daily rate housing fees thereafter.
As Jamaica’s borders remain closed as a Covid-19 containment measure, taking chartered flights is the only flight option to leave the country at this time.
Responding to the LIAT asking price, students have said that they cannot afford to cover the cost, which is nearly four times the regular one-way airfare price.
There is no feedback yet on the One Caribbean price which will work out to being USD $364 dollars less than the LIAT asking price.
One News SVG was informed that the Honorary Consul for St. Vincent to Jamaica, and members of the executive of the Vincentian Students’ Association of Jamaica – VINSA, have been negotiating with at least two airlines to get the students home.
Students from some other Caribbean countries, including St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda, have left Jamaica recently on LIAT charters, while some students from other Caribbean countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, and The Bahamas, remain on the campuses.