Members and associates of the Grouping of CSOs are urging people to stop and reflect on what does Emancipation mean, looking backward and forward, particularly in the context of the current challenges confronting us. For those who do not know, take some time to chat with an elder; those who know please pass that knowledge on to the next generation. The Emancipation holiday has become a time of fete, jam, jump and wave. Certainly, it is a celebratory occasion but it should also be a time for sober reflection on the sacrifices, accomplishments and resilience of our African ancestors – who were considered/treated as human chattel – their values, the lessons they have taught us and gifts that they have left us.
The Grouping also takes the opportunity to express its alarm on the trends of increasing violence which has resulted in those involved being grievously harmed or a party ending up dead. The Grouping has also noted the increasing trend of citizens’ conflict with the police. In our view, the current situation partly reflects an already deteriorating law and order situation that is exacerbated by the stress and frustration resulting from the economic and psychosocial trauma brought on by challenges of COVID-19 – the loss of jobs, the uncertainty, a sense of hopelessness and the growing inequality, discrimination and sense of persecution that is being fuelled by the government’s action re the issue of vaccination.
We have noted the calls for co-operation, collaboration and compliance. We suggest that, in going forward, ongoing social dialogue is paramount, with the authorities engaging communities and social partners. It also necessitates that the Rule of Law be applied equally across the board – that those who make the law also obey the law and lead by example.
The government’s actions on the issue of mandatory vaccine is confusing to say the least. The government’s position was articulated by Prime Minister Mitchell when he addressed the launch of the Beach House by Silver Sands project. He indicated that employers had the right to change the conditions of work and demand that employees be vaccinated and employees had the right to refuse the vaccine but that would come at a cost to them. It is our understanding that, within the context of the law, there is a severance process to be followed that ensures that both parties can claim their rights. Where workers are unionized, there is the collective bargaining agreement to protect them (hopefully) and in the case of non-unionized labour it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour that is now headed by Minister Peter David.
We are therefore very confused by events over the past month. We have noted the following:-
- Minister Steele’s utterances in the House of Parliament on July 07 that “people will die” because they have not taken the vaccine. We suggest that appealing to the sense of reason of persons and responding to their concerns and queries would have been a much more useful and respectful tactic.
- Letter July 06 from the Chief Medical Officer to the authorities of Sandals Hotel demanding that they take action to vaccinate all of their workers. The letter advised that one of the “vital public health measures” put in place was “having the workers in the hotel industry vaccinated as an added protection against COVID -19 virus.” The letter gave Sandals Hotel ten days “to comply with the Ministry’s directive to have 100 percent of your staff vaccinated by July 15………………..”
- Has government passed a law or approved a policy which requires workers in certain sectors to be vaccinated? If COVID-19 vaccines are not yet mandatory in Grenada, how can the Chief Medical Officer, a PUBLIC OFFICER in the Ministry of Health be writing a letter to the authorities of Sandals Hotel demanding that their workers be vaccinated?
- For a second consecutive year, Grenada has to forego the fun and frolic of its Carnival celebrations – also significant event for the economy, both formal and informal sectors. Notwithstanding, that Carnival celebrations have been cancelled, there has been the passage of an amendment to the State of Emergency Powers regulations to permit individuals who are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus to socialize, once a waiver application applied for by business owners or operators is approved by the Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health. This, apparently, will facilitate a number of activities by promoters and entertainers. This amendment permits the organisers of such events to dispose of the usual COVID-19 protocols such as face masks and social distancing. It is ironic that even World Health Organisation advises that vaccines are just one part of managing COVID-19, in addition to the “main preventive measures” such as social distancing and wearing a mask.
To vax or not to vax is now a very contentious and divisive issue, with many of those who have chosen to vax displaying an elitist, self-righteous and intolerant attitude towards those persons who continue to voice VALID concerns and reservations about the COVID-19 vaccine or claim their right to freedom of conscience as protected under Chapter 1 of the Constitution of Grenada.
The Grouping of Civil Society Organisations calls on EVERYONE – leaders and individuals, parents and youth – particularly those exercising authority and those of great influence, to exercise good judgement and restraint, and practice civility towards each other during this period. With authority and rights come obligations and responsibilities. We urge everyone, whether vaxxed or not, to respect and comply with fundamental COVID-19 protocols. Each of us must do our part for the protection of our health and well-being and ultimately that of our country.
Grouping of Civil Society Organisations