Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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T&T opens doors to Caricom nurses, offers more aid to weather-struck St Vincent
BUCCAMENT, Saint Vincent. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has invited nurses from the Caricom region to work in T&T in a bid to ease the country's nursing shortage.
Persad-Bissessar's offer to Caricom on Tuesday to accommodate regional nurses willing to work in T&T was the latest in a string of invitations to regional states during the meeting, heightening T&T's profile in the regional grouping. It was sealed at Monday night's Caricom dinner, when Persad-Bissessar and Gonsalves duetted on the pop song That's What Friends are For.
The PM also gave further assistance to St Vincent to help that island’s ongoing efforts to rebuild after last year's devastating damage from torrential rains and widespread flooding.
Persad-Bissessar handed over $150,000 worth of water pipelines and materials to repair St Vincent's devastated water systems. She was showered with praises for almost 20 minutes by St Vincent Prime Minister, Caricom chairman Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who noted T&T has already given aid in materials and other facilities estimated at around US$2.4 million.
"She's shown herself to be a true friend of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines. I want to express the deepest thanks on behalf everyone to my sister Kamla...T&T responded immediately after the hurricane due to the generosity of spirit of Kamla," Gonsalves said, adding, “She has a deep sensitivity to things—it touches her, it's a noise in the blood, an echo in her bones.”
Persad-Bissessar and Gonsalves undertook the handing-over at St Vincent's Water Service Authority during a break in the second day of Caricom's intersessional conference. The PM left St Vincent after the leaders had caucused on over six issues for most of the day.
Persad-Bissessar said T&T also piloted a proposal for all Caricom missions to share diplomatic facilities wherever in the world some states have missions and others do not. That arose after she suggested that Caricom states could share T&T's diplomatic mission in China.
The PM also said leaders are examining ways to allow Guyanese students to study at the law school and change a system which mitigated against this.
On joint efforts which T&T proposed she added that if all states steered the same boat, “We’ll all float together.”
Dispelling misconceptions about T&T’s assistance to the region, Persad-Bissessar said Government is willing to help but couldn’t give what it didn’t produce.
Gonsalves, who said he was "very, very happy" Persad-Bissessar was at the meeting, said they had developed a close friendship.
"Even when we disagree on matters, they're not fundamental. We're cut from the same social cloth of looking after the people," he said.
Saying some Vincentians lost everything and some were still suffering from the hurricane hit, he commented that Persad-Bissessar responded immediately to SVG's plight, sending teams and other help.
"I'll never forget her solidarity and contributions in, as the song says, good times and bad,” he said.
Gonsalves said 150 people are still in shelters, but an EC$21 million housing programme is expected to be completed in six months.
Yesterday's Caricom talks focused on running the Impacs security agency and sealing an outstanding Caricom/Canada agreement.
Talks were scheduled to continue after Persad-Bissessar left.