Barbados is sending more than thoughts and prayers to neighbouring St Vincent and the Grenadines as the territory prepares for the impending eruption of La Soufriere volcano.
Having spoken to the President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises (Royal Caribbean Cruises) Michael Bayley, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley told the nation that help is on the way to St Vincent in the form of empty cruise vessels with just staff onboard to aid in the evacuation efforts. Furthermore, she shared that at the same time Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Lisa Cummins has been working with Carnival Cruises.
She said: “The same cruise ships that we had in our waters off our shores for the last few months, I spoke with Michael Bailey at Royal Caribbean and the Minister of Tourism has been in talks with Carnival and we are happy that they immediately responded to PM [Ralph] Gonsalves’ request and the first ship should arrive in the waters of St Vincent and the Grenadines tonight and more tomorrow.”
And she said that this kind of camaraderie and cooperation was made possible after the level of care and consideration Barbados extended to these cruise lines in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic was announced.
She said: “I’ll ask the people of Barbados to recognise, this is straight talk, when we came to you earlier this year or last year rather and spoke to you about how we need to treat with compassion persons, and particularly those on the cruise ships as workers who could not get back to their homes because nobody was letting them through their countries, we Bajans took a decision to facilitate and over 21,000 people were able to go back to their families as a result of that decision, it is that kind of decision that has laid the kind of framework for us to have the kind of humanitarian cooperation and easy access that we have today now that allows those same ships and persons to be able to come to the rescue of our brothers and sisters…”
PM Mottley said to the naysayers and doubting Thomases, as well as to the young citizens of this country that they need to learn a lesson from this. “In life, the greatest gift believe you me is generosity of spirit. I have never seen the generosity of spirit repaid with ingratitude.”
Having been on the receiving end of much opposition, flippant comments and swift apologies even during this year of COVID-19, she admitted that people sometimes do play a shot back at the giver but in due time, with patience, “you will get your just reward for being decent and adhering to good values”.
Barbados also supports other aspects of cooperation being put in place by way of CDEMA [Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency] and the RSS [Regional Security System], which are already in positions to assist the people there.
Moreover, she added, “We are supportive of both efforts, but separately the people and government of Barbados will do what we have to do…
“Our prayers and our support are with the people and government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, they are our brothers and sisters…and therefore we hope and pray that there is no loss of life and the loss of property is minimum.”
She stressed that La Soufriere is creating “real pressure” with an emergency evacuation of thousands underway, but she reiterated that she has spoken to PM Gonsalves already, and “he knows the support of Barbados and the Barbadian people and our prayers are there with them.”