Keith Rowley and the People’s National Movement (PNM) should be ashamed of their attempts to diminish the value of the Children’s Life Fund in justifying why PNM members have not contributed to the fund set up by the People’s Partnership (PP) administration to help families whose children need life saving medical services that are not available locally.
This fund was the very first act – one of compassion – established by the present government in fulfillment of a pledge made by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar while she was in opposition.
And when she became Prime Minister she committed to pay 10 per cent of her salary into the fund every month and insisted that every member of her cabinet to contribute 5 per cent of theirs. Thanks to that and the contribution of others (not including the PNM) 67 children have benefitted so far.
The Prime Minister, members of cabinet, school children, community groups and individuals have all contributed to the fund, which today has a balance of more than $18 million – money that is available to help save the lives of our children.
|School children saved from their allowances to contribute to the CLF|
The opposition has not seen it fit to contribute and despite all that it has been saying it did nothing to create any similar mechanism to assist families whose children were dying.
Rowley told the media his party and PNM members have not contributed to the fund because the PNM would prefer to support public policy that provides “adequate, dignified and effective financial support directly from accountable taxpayer sources” to sick children. He boasted that before the PP came into office there was “a programme of support for needy people in extraordinary circumstances of hardship”.
Talk is cheap. The PNM can talk till the cows come home about caring and doing something to help the needy but their record is shameful.
Rowley and the PNM should check the records. If they do, they’ll find the name of Marissa Ramlal, a 9-month-old baby who desperately needed a liver transplant. She died at the San Fernando general hospital as her mother looked on in grief and disbelief that a government that could spend $50 billion in one year could not find the $1 million needed to save a child’s life.
The people of Trinidad and Tobago, through the intervention of Ian Alleyne and his Crime Watch show, raised $759,000 and the family begged the government for the rest of the $1.8 million needed to save the baby’s life.
But the Minister of Health at the time, Jerry Narace, refused. He advised the media that the government offered $60,000, which was “the policy by which we are guided.” And coldly stated: “My instruction to the ministry was for us to do the maximum possible to assist the young lady.”
|A baby dies ... because of "budgetary circumstances".|
That nine-month old child died a wretched death because the PNM government knew how to “follow policy” on the issue of saving a child’s life but thought nothing of squandering hundreds of millions of dollars funding cost overruns on its ego-building mega projects.
An innocent life was taken away while Health Minister Jerry Narace had the gall to tell the nation that because of “budgetary circumstances” he could not help to give this child a fighting chance to live.
And that’s not an isolated case. Joshua Bhagwandeen’s child needed a surgical liver procedure. The family had to beg and borrow $530,000 to pay for the first procedure … and continued to beg for an additional $1.9-million to save their child’s life.
They didn’t get any help from the PNM government that was busy having million-dollar banquets for foreign leaders.
And Rowley and the PNM have the gall to criticise Kamla and the Children’s Life fund.
On that Divali Day in 2008 when baby Marissa died her mother, Judy Khan, wept for her loss and for the callousness of a government that refused to help. “For months my child suffered,” she told the media. “I had to look at her as she died slowly and I prayed and prayed that somebody would help me, but nobody cared.”
NOBODY HELPED, DR ROWLEY! NOBODY IN THE PNM CARED. YOU WERE IN GOVERNMENT!
So don’t pontificate about your “morality” and concern for anyone. In 28 days the people of Trinidad and Tobago contributed $800,000 … and all your government could find was $60,000 because of “budgetary circumstances”.
The PNM could not put a penny more than its “budgetary allocation” to save a child’s life but the PNM and its people knew how to spend the people’s money doing other things like the $1 million dollars a month entertainment allowance for the Prime Minister. And millions more for Patrick Manning to fly all over the place in a chartered jet.
The government that could only spare $60,000 to save the life of an infant but it could find $425,599 for a fete to open a highway bridge. The works minister at the time, Colm Imbert, boasted that it was a small amount. They spent $190,300 to buy confetti and flags.
|Colm Imbert's bridge opening cost $425,599|
A government's primary responsibility is to serve its citizens and develop policy to help improve the lives of the people.
Kamla and her People’s Partnership understood that before they got into government and they continue to do it every day. The Children’s Life Fund is just one example of how to serve the people.
In her own words: "We owe a duty of care to the most vulnerable in our society and the harsh reality is that there is a lot more to be done as we strive to provide the best medical attention for our children."
No government of our country ever showed that extent of concern for the welfare of children.
The Children’s Life Fund is an example to the region and the world. It epitomises caring, compassion and service and guarantees that through the efforts of the governing elite and the generosity of corporate and private citizens no child will die because of the lack of life-saving medical treatment.
And so far, it has not received one penny from the PNM!