Newly installed Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Lisa Cummins, has expressed shock, hurt and disappointment over a decision by some Senators to protest her return to the Senate by walking out.
The move by Opposition Senators Caswell Franklyn and Crystal Drakes, as well as independent Senators Monique Taitt and Lindell Nurse to leave Senate during debate on the Integrity in Public Life Bill 2020, was proceeded by a spirited debate in which senators raised concerns about the short period of Cummins’ self isolation.
The Bill subsequently failed to get the14 votes needed for safe passage through the Upper Chamber and was defeated.
Ten Government Senators voted in favour, while two other legislators present abstained.
Senator Cummins was among several Government officials and media personnel advised by the Chief Medical Officer to isolate after attending last Thursday’s welcoming ceremony for 95 nurses from Ghana at the Grantley Adams International Airport.
Nine of the nurses tested positive for COVID-19 at the weekend.
And while Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic who also returned a negative COVID-19 test opted to attend a press conference hosted today by Prime Minister Mia Mottley via Zoom, Cummins opted to be present this afternoon in the Upper Chamber.
Notice of her impending arrival by President of the Senate Richard Cheltenham, was met with disgust by first Franklyn and then Taitt.
Cheltenham said a medical certificate had been provided, signed by Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George.
The outspoken Franklyn contended that Cummins had not sufficiently isolated herself.
“From the inception they told us that COVID has a seven to 14-day incubation period. This ain’t 14 days yet so this doctor needs to retire or resign from the public service. He is influenced and if she come I gone ya know because I am not staying in here with someone who they told to stay in quarantine for five days or seven days,” he maintained.
Taitt also questioned the reason for Cummins’ presence and asked the president to exercise power and deny her entry.
“I am concerned sir, but there are people in here who are high risk and if we are in an environment where there are no windows I am not certain that this is a good thing. I believe that Senator Cummins coming in here is premature,” Taitt said.
“I wish to be a part of the vote with the Integrity and Public Life Bill but I do not want to know how Harrison Point is. I think it is dangerous, I think it is selfish and I think Senator Cummins ought not to be here simply because we do not know.”
When she entered, Franklyn left first, followed by Drakes and Nurse, before Taitt asked to be excused.
Speaking on the incident, Cummins described it as an “interesting day”.
She contended that as the chairman of the Bridgetown Port, she had been in contact with over 22,000 crew members who had been repatriated.
She said she was present in the Port for many of the repatriation activities and had close interactions with some passengers.
“In the same way that we did last Thursday masked up, socially distanced, and maintaining all of the protocols that have been set in place by the Government. I did not find myself unwelcomed in any space and I did not have a COVID-19 test.
“I did not find myself unwelcomed after processing and treating to over 22,000 crew members and sitting in this place, unwelcomed, scorned, facing a stigma and I did not have a COVID-19 negative test. But here it is that we are talking about how we use the privilege of this space. I today have had a COVID-19 test, the first one; I didn’t have one in February, I didn’t have one in March, I didn’t have one in April, I didn’t have one in May and I didn’t have one in June, and my risk exposure, low though it may have been was identical for all of those times and I walked in and out of this Chamber among my colleagues without scorn or ridicule. But today it has prompted a walk out with a COVID-19 test,” Cummins insisted.
“I shudder to think what a person who has actually had COVID is facing in this country today…and if this is what we are dealing with with a COVID-19 negative test, seven days in quarantine. If this is what we are dealing with among leadership in this country that we are facing a pandemic together then I think there is no hope for those coming back with COVID-19 positive tests and attempting to treat to this country in a meaningful way. It is a most unfortunate and despicable display, ” she said. [email protected]