Matthew Samuda knocks Bunting's criticism of Jamaica's COVID-19 responseSaturday, September 25, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica — Government Senator, Matthew Samuda, denied a claim made in the Senate Friday by Opposition Senator, Peter Bunting,that the government is using a “Troll Army” to intimidate people opposed to its policies.
“This Government has invested in a powerful communications machinery for political purposes, and uses it inappropriately to deal with a genuine national crisis. They have employed a troll army, using state resources to intimidate opposing voices,” Bunting claimed in his contribution to the annual State of the Nation (SON) Debate in the Senate.
However, he said that history does not judge leaders and administrations based on their popularity, or their electoral success, but on what they did for their countries.
“Did they protect their people? Did they improve the lives of their people? These are not matters of perception or social media chatter. These are the true measure of any government. And they can be objectively measured,” Bunting added.
But Samuda, whose contribution to the debate followed, criticised Bunting for making the suggestion and urged him to make an apology as soon as he could.
“There is no troll army employed by the government, or the political party to which I am a member. The people on social media just don't like you guys,” he said in his response.
Samuda also took note of a number of other criticisms made by Bunting in his speech, including that the government: had allocated billions of dollars to public relations across various ministries; used the Disaster Risk Management Act's Regulations for elective enforcement to control dissent; and, pandering to the most powerful vested interests in the society.
“I don't see the response (to the pandemic) as inequitable, in the way that Senator Bunting expressed. I had to sit and face calls from some of the one per cent to 10 per cent (of the population) that Senator Bunting alluded to who have been quarantined and have been held and charged under the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA). They have had their fair share of the 2,000 who have been charged,” he said.
“That fact, outside of other decisions, tells me that it has been applied equitably in terms of enforcement,” Samuda stated.
“No policy implementation is perfect. There are always outlying situations, but I know that this government has done everything in its power to ensure that the policies are applied equitably, evenly and that we do our best to protect lives and livelihoods,” he said.
“There is constant instruction from the Prime Minister, and Senator (Aubyn) Hill) will back me up on this, that the Prime Minister has held it close to his heart, and that there is no convention on COVID where he doesn't discuss the impact on the poor, and where he does not insist on the equitable enforcement of the measures, regardless,” Samuda stated.
“I am putting that on the table, because I see very, very differently from how Senator Bunting would have seen it,” Samuda added.