While Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite was condemning as “irresponsible” the operators of a local fast food outlet and a supermarket chain for opening for business while the country was under a tropical storm warning, one of his cabinet colleagues was engaging in the very practice he had condemned.
Yet, Minister of Housing Denis Kellman contended that Brathwaite’s criticism did not pertain to him because he was simply accommodating “some people like any normal country shop would”.
Brathwaite told a news briefing at the headquarters of the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) in Warrens, St Michael this morning that it was “irresponsible” for businesses to place their employees’ lives in danger by asking them to report to work today despite a national shutdown.
“While we understand the importance of businesses and what they are trying to do, the reality is this, from what we are being told, it is dangerous out there. And I think it is irresponsible for these institutions, if what I am hearing is correct, to open for business at this point in time when we are asking persons to stay indoors because of how dangerous their surroundings are,” Brathwaite said.
The owners of the fast food outlet and supermarket chain could not be reached for comment; but Kellman, who owns St Elmo’s Moon Town in St Lucy, told Barbados TODAY he was not being irresponsible.
“I think what you should do is listen to the Labour officer. He fully explained certain circumstances. I think what the [Minister of Home Affairs] is talking about is those people who called out people to work,” Kellman explained.
However, Barbados TODAY was told that some of Kellman’s employees were privately protesting that they could not be with their families because they had to work.
Meantime, a business on the west coast, which also defied the national shutdown, attracted unfavourable comments on social media.
According to a post on Facebook, Lemongrass Noodle Bar & Grill at the Limegrove Lifestyle Centre in Holetown, St James described itself as an essential service, stating that all of the employees were on duty because they chose to, and they enjoyed their work.
The poster also suggested that opening today was a question of work ethic.
But in response, one person scoffed at those remarks, branding the poster as an embarrassment to the company. No one from Lemongrass could be reached for comment.
However, the Minister of Home Affairs was not the only one expressing concern today about the apparent disregard of storm warnings issued by weather officials.
Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Ronald Jackson also raised the issue today, while pleading with the public to show “confidence in the region’s meteorologist”.
Jackson did not make direct reference to the business that opened when he addressed journalist at a news conference on the passing of Tropical Storm Matthew, held jointly with the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), at CDEMA’s Lower Estate headquarters.
Instead, he focused on the public, which he claimed tended to ignore warnings or to be slow to respond to orders to shut down.
“There is an issue I want to confront and I don’t think we should dodge it. There is a dialogue that ensues when Government seeks to call on the country to shut down and there is a lull in terms of what would have been the expected time and time of impact. There is this view that there was a mistake made. What we need to understand that meteorology is not an exact science,” Jackson said.
Both CDEMA and CIMH also cautioned the public following satellite imagery online and making predictions about the possible impact of storms, insisting that only meteorologists had the requisite training to make predictions on trajectory based on such images. (EJ/CM)