When Prime Ministers and Presidents offer explanations to their nations for a policy, action, decision, indiscretion, mistake, etc., one assumes that it is watertight, so unfair criticism could be easily dismissed, and the result is that there is no credibility loss.
Last month President Granger went to Trinidad for a medical checkup. I don’t have a Facebook account and have absolutely no contact with the Facebook account of any person in the world. But I was told there were quick reactions on social media as to why he didn’t do it in Guyana. The government issued a press release and it went like this.
His wife has Caricom Secretariat medical insurance and he is covered by it. They have been doing the yearly Trinidad trip for a long time now. But such an explanation tempts one to ask questions. First, does the insurance still cover the person if they leave CARICOM’s employment? At the time she made the trip to Trinidad, she was not a CARICOM employee. Mrs. Granger’s Wikipedia page has her as retiring from CARICOM in 2008.
The answer has to be, then, that she is still entitled to medical benefits. That is a very generous arrangement an employer provides. If that is not the case, the alternative reasoning is that she continues to be on the scheme because she contributes to it. I honestly don’t know if when you retire, you can still contribute to your employer’s medical insurance. But Mrs. Granger, according to the government, has Caricom insurance benefits.
President Granger said since he was covered by his wife’s scheme, he went for the check-up too. But there is a question here. Even if he is a beneficiary of his wife’s medical benefits, why leave Guyana for a medical check-up if it can be done here?
My perspective is on the symbolic implications. If the President can go to another CARICOM country for medical treatment then what does it tell us about the development of medicine in Guyana. My argument is that as president, he has to instill confidence in the country’s institutions. This is merely the way I see it.
Think of how the population will feel if a prominent businessman is robbed and murdered and we bring in private detectives from another country. The very first question is; why can’t our local boys handle it? Going for a medical examination that can be done right here in Guyana may not inspire confidence in our own facilities. It is a completely different story if the tests are not available in Guyana. Of course I am assuming here that the President’s medical checks could be done here. If not, he had every right to be in Trinidad.
Last year, the nation was told by an official press release that certain ministers have been going to Ireland (not a big, developed European power with a large population) for medical treatment. Then the Prime Minister was out for almost three months because of a cardiac ailment. Two months ago, a female minister went abroad for health reasons, but there was no announcement. Now we have Minister Amna Ally travelling for the same purpose. But here again, reason has symbolic implications.
The press release was unambiguous. She wasn’t feeling well, checked into the Georgetown Public Hospital and as a precaution, will travel for further medical tests. There is a watertight reason for any Guyanese going abroad for medical facilities which are not available in Guyana. Surely, that is what any human would call commonsense. But should the political directorate leave if the facilities are available here?
The criticism of our leadership going to foreign lands for medical reasons goes back way into the reign of the PPP. Most PPP Ministers and their families during their 23-year-old tenure went abroad for treatment. Against this fact must be measured the state of medical facilities in Guyana.
After 52 years of Independence, it is a fair question to ask why we are not up to scratch like Trinidad. The answer is money. Trinidad has been an oil economy for a long time, enjoying a fantastic income compared to poor Guyana. Simply put; Trinidad has money to make available to its citizens medical treatment comparable with developed countries.
I know that because in 2000, my eye doctor, Dr. George Norton recommended an emergency trip to Trinidad and it saved my sight. It is sad, though, that after 52 years of Independence, the wealthy and politically powerful could go abroad while the average person faces a terrifying prospect at the Georgetown Hospital. My mother died there, unnecessarily so.
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