The National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) and other relevant authorities have been urged to be more transparent and complete in their communication surrounding the ongoing effusive eruption at La Soufriere.
Dr Godwin Friday, leader of the opposition made the call on Wednesday during a press conference, where he made a public statement on the current state of affairs in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) as it relates to COVID-19 and the eruption.
Friday did not comment extensively on the volcano, except to say that regular and sincere communication is needed to allay fears and build trust among members of the public.
“It’s critically important because the response time might be short and urgent and people have to make decisions based on the information they receive from the authorities. That trust and confidence must be there,” he said. “They mustn’t go on Facebook or WhatsApp and some other social media and find that information, which can be conflicting. They must say I have a source that I need to go to, to find out what is happening and follow that.”
The opposition leader noted that there is a tendency to rely on social media to convey critical information.
While Friday acknowledged the importance of using social media, he said the method is not entirely satisfactory.
He also made recommendations for there to be direct face-to-face communication with people where possible and a hotline for persons to call to get reassuring information.
In his statement, the opposition leader revealed that he and some colleagues visited Owia and Sandy Bay, two communities in the Red Zone on December 30, 2020 to speak with villagers.
“My intention for being there was to reassure them again to say listen, we have your back, that when there is a problem, the authorities will inform you, there’s a plan in place; to give them that reassurance,” Friday said. “It is now for the authorities to build upon that trust that I know that many of the people have in me and in the members…who have been candidates in that area; Shevern John and Chieftain Neptune.”
The president of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and colleagues have also met with officials from NEMO to discuss the ongoing effusive eruption and get an idea of the plans in place to respond in the event that the activity escalates into an explosive eruption.
“NEMO must also make sure that they have the necessary drills and practice them in the communities to prepare for evacuation, not just have them on paper. We must hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, that is to say prepare for evacuation,” Friday said.
In addition to giving the assurance that his party will play its role in doing whatever is necessary to keep people safe and overcome the crisis, the opposition leader urged NEMO to continue to respond in kind to the NDP.
“…I am the leader of the opposition. The New Democratic Party is the party of the majority in the country. We cannot be side-lined or in any way treated as an afterthought. We certainly will ensure that that doesn’t happen as we represent the people,” Friday said.