Mauvais langue and picong have long been part of this country's political culture and there are very few topics that are off-limits to candidates and their supporters. Our appeal today is for COVID-19 to be added to the list of subjects to be treated with a higher level of sensitivity by all on the hustings.
The mixed messages on the pandemic from people in positions of leadership and influence can potentially put the country in a dangerous place. The United States and Brazil are nearby examples of how the coronavirus can gain footholds when important information about safe and healthy practices are distorted by political posturing and twisting of facts.
Anything said or done that detracts from the important messages about the virus are to be studiously avoided. Making the disease the subject of careless campaign rhetoric only serves to trivialise an issue that for our more vulnerable citizens, is a matter of life or death.
At all times, information about COVID-19 should be handled in a transparent, easily accessible and orderly way. This is almost as critical as carrying out more of the testing, tracing and tracking which will allow T&T's public health experts to keep up with its spread so that they will eventually get ahead of it. The hard work being done by these professionals can be compromised by conflicting statements from politicians which can lead to confusion, complacency and disregard of health measures intended to keep all safe.
One of those avoidable situations was created several weeks ago by Dr Fuad Khan, a medical practitioner and former health minister, who described the advice to use face masks as rubbish. Although he subsequently complied with that requirement during sittings of Parliament, Dr Khan's comments would have encouraged some to disregard advice that is based on solid scientific and medical research.
There have also been mixed messages from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who, in defending the cause of T&T nationals stranded abroad, compared their situation with two of the most painful experiences in our history - slavery and indentureship.
Also of concern are those premature claims of success with COVID-19 from various members of the Dr Keith Rowley administration which have led to the public complacency.
These inconsistent statements on the merits of wearing face masks, hand washing and physical distancing are dangerous.
Everyone facing the polls on August 10 should heed World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyeson's recent warning about mixed messages sending many countries "in the wrong direction” with the pandemic.
And it is not only about what they say but what they do. The wrong message is being sent by candidates who don't ensure the people accompanying them on walkabouts and at meetings wear masks and maintain social distancing as they interact with prospective voters.
Consistency in messaging and unambiguous actions are the only ways to ensure compliance that will defeat COVID-19, a global pandemic that makes no distinctions about where it will strike. Therefore, the fight against the coronavirus requires complete non-partisan support.