T&T stinking to high heaven
The Big Stink…Rotting bodies at Port of Spain mortuary” read the lead story in last Monday’s Express.
“Was this, somehow, a reply to the rhetorical question I raised in my column last week?” I immediately questioned, as I read the headline. In that column, I quoted a friend at our Friday evening ‘lime” asking despondently: “Do you realise, where we have reached?”
The story said that since August 17, the chiller at the mortuary had been malfunctioning, and up to Monday 26, it had not been repaired. The result was an “unbearable stink” of three decomposing bodies, pervading not only parts of the Port of Spain General Hospital, but the surrounding environment.
To me, the story read as a wretched indictment, a blotch on the nation’s record, as its people were celebrating its 51st Independence anniversary. The unclaimed bodies, I guessed, were persons treated in life by our system as nondescript, flotsam, and now discarded as mere carrion, in death.
“Are we becoming less human?” I mused. At that moment, the smell of their rotting flesh just seemed to me to have pervaded, not just a small part of the city, but throughout the two islands of plenty.
“What does it say about us? Every day we seem to accept human suffering, with callous indifference, and now, this story was revealing our attitudes towards the dead?” I told myself.
Later, I posed the rhetorical question to a retired medical practitioner. His response brought no comfort: “If you feel that the mortuary is bad, you should see the PoS hospital. That’s a bigger stink! But the entire medical system is the biggest stink of all. It’s not about health care — just profit for a few”.
The story quoted the Health Minister as being “extremely surprised” that the situation was not treated as an “emergency”, but it also reported that the Hospital Board had decided to stop such an intervention.
The “big stink” was not the only surprise the Minister got last week; the other was the theft of a $500,000 ultrasound machine from the San Fernando Hospital, under the noses of its security guards.
The Minister, it appears, now has a problem with the smell of police uniforms, so he announced that a “PI”, a private investigator, will be hired to track the smell of public property throughout private medical institutions.
The more I pondered on this, greater became the smell. As I turned to our “independence gift” from the Prime Minister — her reform measures for voting in the October 21 local government elections — I questioned whether a smell resided there, too.
I paused: “Is the PM going to have the elections postponed, after all?” The smell of an anticipated, heated debate, because of her back-door introduction of proportional representation, and her plan to have it passed by a simple majority in the House sucked into my nostrils, as a sneaky way of getting her desired postponement.
I wondered, too, whether there was a whiff of sorts coming from the $36 million contract awarded to the company, Super Industrial Services (SIS) for the supply of buses to the PTSC.
SIS, I recalled, was the construction company, which helped build the private homes of the PM in Phillippine, and TOP leader Ashworth Jack in Tobago.
SIS, it should be noted, has already been awarded a $232.5 million contract for the government’s proposed Motor Vehicle Authority; a $45 million contract for the Siparia market; $70 million for the Couva/Preysal Interchange, and continues to benefit from contracts, under the Works Ministry, PURE roads upgrading programme, and from NIpdec.
That whiff got even stronger, with the reports that SIS, through its recent acquisition of a security company, is likely to benefit further from another multi-million contract.
But then I realised that I was mistaken, because the Attorney-General is on record as defending the award of contracts to SIS. In January this year, the AG assured the country that majority of government contracts had not changed hands.
So, there was really no “big stink”, he assured: “The issue of contracts must be seen as a power play by desperate commercial interests that are seeking to protect and preserve their monopoly on lucrative work in the state sector.”
With that assurance from the AG, I was left wondering about the sources of the stench. It could not be coming from the Prime Minister’s vanity projects — her Children’s’ Hospital in, her proposed Penal Hospital, designed by the banned Canadian firm, SNC-Lavalin, or in her $500 million Law School in Penal.
Maybe the “big stink” was coming from the Planning Minister’s proposal — a cable car system running from Laventille to City Gate, as tourist attraction.
Yes, look where we reach!
• Keith Subero, a former
Express news editor, has
since followed a career in