Minister Lee responds to MP De Weever: “Everything he mentions has already been done”

POSTED: 01/29/16 5:24 PM

Lee-Marlin-Kirindongo-Gibson - HHSt. Maarten News – Public Health Minister Emil Lee slammed Member of Parliament Cornelius de Weever for his suggestion that the Ministry is not pro-active in the fight against the zika virus. The minister spoke of plagiarism in De Weever’s press release that contains indeed complete passages taken straight from the internet-encyclopedia Wikipedia that De Weever presented as his personal opinion.

MP De Weever sent out a press release on Tuesday afternoon, that contains amongst others the following lines: “I would have expected a more proactive and hands on approach from the Minister of Public Health. What he needs to do is follow exactly what I did with the Chickungunya situation and improve or tweak where necessary or just give me a call because I would be more than happy to assist in the interest of St. Maarten and exclude politics from this situation.”

This newspaper attempted to reach the minister for a reaction on Tuesday and when we did not manage before press time, we decided to withhold the press release.

Yesterday Minister Lee reacted to the press release that appeared unaltered on websites and in the Daily Herald.

“I don’t like to respond to newspaper articles, but I find it important to react to this one, because it is destructive to the ministry and wrong to the people. This was fear mongering for political gain.”

Minister Lee said that Collective Preventive Services and its department head Dr. Virginie Asin “have been on top of this issue since May 2015. The notion that the ministry has not been on top of this is nonsense.”

Lee noted that De Weever apparently still has his contacts within the ministry. “But everything he mentions in his press release has been addressed. It is unprofessional to suggest that I should give him a call and leave out politics. He could have picked up the phone himself.”

In his press release, De Weever said that Minister Lee “should be taking the initiative to meet with his French counterparts, coordinate fogging with them and go into the neighborhoods to inspect and inform households by identifying breeding grounds for the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Leadership from the minister of public health leaves much to be desired.”

Lee showed how De Weever had “plagiarized” whole sections from the internet encyclopedia Wikipedia in his press release where he refers to the ovitrap that mimics preferred breeding sites for mosquitoes.

Indeed, when this newspaper double checked, it appears that two paragraphs from De Weever’s press release, presented as quotes by the MP, are literally ripped from the internet.

Minister Lee said that he visited the Caribbean Travel Marketplace event in the Bahamas last week. “I used my vacation days and paid the travel expenses myself,” he noted, adding that he learned at this event what is being done around the Caribbean about the zika virus threat.

Lee stepped down as president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association to become minister of public health and he pointed out that the CHTA already issued guidelines for hotels and for travelers about zika in January.

Upon his return from Caribbean Travel Marketplace, Minister Lee organized an inter-ministerial field trip to take stock of the situation in one particular neighborhood. “There is an issue with breeding grounds,” he said, “but within the department the talk is mostly about long-term solutions. We came up with immediate action.”

Lee said that the ovitrap – originally designed to monitor mosquito populations – can be turned into a lethal trap by adding chemicals to it. He presented copies of an order to amazon.com for BiteBack, a product that kills mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus.

“We will take appropriate measures, whatever it takes. Identify the source of the problem, contact the people and give them one month to correct the situation.”

Breeding grounds are the source of the problem; they are created by stagnant water in for instance containers, tires, and swimming pools.

“We visited one house with an old swimming pool that held still two feet of water. It was full of mosquitoes,” Lee said. “We decided on the spot what to do: chemicals in the water, find the owner and ask him to correct the situation. If not. We will do it and bill him for it.”

The minister called on the cooperation of citizens in the fight against the zika virus. “”Residents know their neighborhoods. I encourage them to contact the ministry when they are aware of mosquito breeding grounds. The more information we have the better we can handle this.”

To alert Collective Preventive Services, email to surveillance@sintmaartengov.org or call 542 20 78.

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