Is Karl right? In times of national crises, a country must act soberly and decisively. At such times, trivial things must be seen for what they are, dropped, and energies refocused on the critical. It is also at such times that leaders are sorely tested. For in crises, leadership requires some version of belling the cat. Who of us mice, in other words, shall walk up to the dangerous cat and bell it? For to return to the life that we know and love, the bell of widespread vaccination must be accepted by the Dominican public. But saying this is a dangerous cat. It takes moral strength to say and do the right thing even in the face of adversity and political cost.
As political leader of the Freedom Party what would be the easy thing for me to say and do? The easy thing would be to label Karl a dangerous labor party operative threatening to take away our freedoms. The hard thing is to state that the Freedom Party fears that without the widespread acceptance and advocacy for high levels of voluntary vaccination among the citizenry – based on current global trends – there may come a time when mandatory vaccination as expressed by Mr. Nassief will become the go-to action for governments globally. And as usual, as a small island developing state we will also be forced to follow that position. Therefore, the DFP believes that it is an abdication of responsibility that the government has not taken more decisive action by, for example, ensuring near 100% vaccine penetration amongst our front-line workers.
It is simply not acceptable that those delivering care to our most vulnerable citizens are not held to the standard of doing no harm – especially when they are already mandated to take several other vaccines such as for hepatitis B. It is also right that business leaders demonstrate social responsibility by protecting the public via promoting near 100% vaccine penetration for their workers in sectors like restaurants, bars, public transportation, and supermarkets – or at the very least, have a vaccinate or test every two weeks mandate. These measures – rather than stripping us of our freedom – ensures the survival of citizens’ rights and liberties and of our beloved nation as a joint, interdependent community.
But taking that position, some say, is not smart politics. What would most appeal to some is to hit Karl hard for stepping in it with his comments. But this a much larger issue than Karl Nassief, and this is not what leadership in times of crisis should look like. Nor does leadership look like what the PM is currently doing. In fact, he is abdicating his responsibility to do the right things because of his constant obsession with winning the next election. It is clear he will do almost nothing that will upset a single voter.
So while the DFP does not support mandatory vaccination for the general public, as Karl seems to be advocating, there are sectors where near 100 % vaccine penetration must be required – and required soon. This is no time for smiling and placating Mr. PM. After almost 20 years, surely you have developed the inner strength to do at least one morally right and courageous thing – even if it means losing a few votes over it.