Activists march for ‘transparency, accountability’ in pandemic management


Umar Abdullah and members of the First Wave Movement outside the Red House on Abercromby Street, Port of Spain on Tuesday. – ROGER JACOB

A midday drizzle and afternoon heat did not deter the First Wave movement from walking to the Red House from Morvant Junction in a show of solidarity and concern over the government’s handling of the covid19 pandemic on Tuesday.

The group of five people led by activists Umar Abdullah and Gary Aboud left the junction at around 1.50 pm and arrived in Port of Spain at around 3.15 under police escort.

The march ended when Abdullah attempted to deliver letters to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader at the Red House, but was told by police instead to deliver the letters to their  offices.

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith  gave the group permission to march to the Red House by  on the condition they did not hold a press conference on the street after the march.

Abdullah and Aboud instead spoke with reporters at the Kwame Ture Education and Development Centre, Eastern Main Road, Laventille. Abdullah said he considered the march a success and implored leaders to heed the call of the group to end what he described as a division between vaccinated and unvaccinated citizens.

Citing reports that President Paula-Mae Weekes did not allow unvaccinated members of staff near her or her mother, Abdullah said there was no evidence to suggest unvaccinated citizens posed any threat to the health of vaccinated people.

He also asserted that conditions imposed by employers to have their staff vaccinated before returning to work were inhumane and divisive.

“We are asking the Prime Minister to pay particular attention to his rhetoric because he is signalling a divide in the country between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.

“I have nothing against vaccination. What we have a problem with is what they are calling a vaccine today. These are investigative medicinal products.

“Companies are using methods to coerce their workers, dangling their jobs and futures in front of them and asking them to take the vaccine.”

Aboud, who is the owner of Mode Alive, said he did not have any vaccination policy in place at his business and whether staff chose to take the vaccine or not was entirely their choice.

He said while the company promotes healthy lifestyles by giving fresh fruit and vitamins to staff, there was no mandatory vaccine policy and endorsed Abdullah’s stance.

“We have concerns but there is no division or segregation. The company buys vitamins and we buy fruits for our staff but there is no discrimination.

“A lot of companies are saying that you will not be rostered unless you take the shot and we think that is inhumane and segregationist. It’s one nation.”

Both Aboud and Abdullah said they were not fazed by the walk and felt it was necessary to make their point as they called for more transparency.

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