Thursday, May 24 2012
Is the nation’s Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who is known to suffer from diabetes and hypertension, more seriously ill than has been let on following on her surprise hospitalisation at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Barbados earlier this week?
What is the significance of prominent cardiologist, Dr Rasheed Rahaman, being rushed to her bedside in Barbados and accompanying her back to Trinidad on Tuesday afternoon, not by regular commercial airlines flight, but in an Air Guard C26 aircraft? In addition, Dr Rahaman, who has treated two former Prime Ministers of Trinidad and Tobago, Basdeo Panday and Patrick Manning, for heart conditions, accompanied the clearly ailing Persad-Bissessar by helicopter to San Fernando from where they were driven by the PM’s security detail to her private residence at Phillipine.
While it is unfortunate that the Prime Minister’s taking ill in Barbados, where she had taken part on Sunday in a Caricom Summit special meeting on the Caribbean Court of Justice, followed up by a Caricom-Mexico summit on Monday, should have come virtually on the eve of today’s People’s Partnership celebration of two years in office, what is important is that she recovers as quickly as possible.
The public should be kept fully abreast with respect to any change, hopefully improvement, in her condition. A Prime Minister is not your average citizen and the public is entitled to be informed on a regular basis of not only any health problems, when she/he falls ill, but of any positive signs in her/his condition. We sincerely hope that her illness is not as serious as first believed, but we emphasise that the public should be kept up to date.
Indeed, it is their right as a Prime Minister is not a private person.
The Prime Minister, it should be noted, appeared decidedly pale and weak when she alighted from the Air Guard C26 aircraft on Tuesday from Barbados. Only the day before, when Minister of Works, Jack Warner, who acted as Prime Minister during Persad-Bissessar’s absence on official business, called a hurried media conference to announce that the PM had been hospitalised, there was a distinct expression of concern both on his face and in his voice, lending to speculation that the illness was serious. Why then the reluctance to answer direct questions about it?
Even as Cabinet Ministers along with other People’s Partnership representatives of both Houses of Parliament, and officials and rank and file members meet to celebrate the second anniversary of the coalition being in Government, there will be, undoubtedly some concern about the frequency with which the Prime Minister falls ill. Tonight she is due to deliver an address and we wait to see how this goes.
Apart from the distinct achievements of the People’s Partnership coalition Government, there have been many disappointments and failures. One of the unfortunate minuses has been stress laid on public relations by all too many Cabinet and Junior Ministers, even when the Government has clearly fallen short not merely on election promises, but specific assurances made in office.
We had referred earlier both to the need to keep the public advised and other Prime Ministers being ill in office. Health concerns of prime ministers, both shared and unshared, go back to the country’s first Prime Minister, Dr Eric Williams, who suffered from diabetes and hypertension, but kept it a secret from the population. His death would come as a surprise on the evening of Sunday, March 29, 1981. In addition, there have been three other former Prime Ministers — ANR Robinson, Basdeo Panday and Patrick Manning — who have suffered from heart problems, Robinson, for the record, while serving as President.
Panday was preparing to leave the country for treatment in the United Kingdom, when an alert citizen notified Newsday. Manning, in turn, had flown out of Trinidad for Jamaica on his way to Cuba, for heart surgery, when, again, Newsday was alerted. All the family was prepared to say at the time was that he had left the country for Jamaica.
If Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, who as noted earlier is diabetic, had a flare-up of diabetes, we should wish to point out that diabetes is a very debilitating and horrible condition. Hypertension is even worse. We wish her the speediest possible recovery, but we need to know the truth.