Power must be used as a tool, never as a weapon. Whenever power is used; and there is hurt and pain to the innocent, it is being abused. Power must always be used to uplift, to help, and to build; never to break and never to hurt.
On Monday while we observed the holy period of Eid, the Disney Fantasy Cruise Liner delivered some of our citizens onto our shores, there was a moment of human anguish that was relayed to me, and I thank the attorney-general for his last-ditch efforts to assist.
A mother and father of a seven-year-old and three-year-old, being crew members of the Disney Fantasy, arrived in our waters. As it turned out the mother, of course being a born ‘Trini to the bone’, was allowed to disembark. But the father, a Jamaican who had filed his papers, from my information, to obtain residency here but not yet concluded, through no fault of his own, was not allowed to leave the cruise ship with his lawfully married wife to return to his home and his family; to his children. Turning a Disney Dream into a Trinidad and Tobago nightmare.
It appears that what God has put together, our authorities have put asunder. Who will look into the tear-filled eyes of these young children and explain to them the policy of our government and the decision not to allow their daddy to come home? The pain and hurt caused by something as simple as an acknowledgment of his entitlement to be here with his family mark us as to who we are in times of crisis. But this is not singular.
It was with great disappointment I witnessed Derek Chin’s coming home, a good and nobleman, who through his own expense diverted a private flight to The Bahamas to bring with him a sister in distress. There were persons in Miami, in a similar circumstance, Azar as an example, who was willing to pay to bring himself and his wife to Trinidad was refused permission to come. That plane came with two passengers, with a capacity for eight, with tremendous expenditure of foreign exchange. I could only imagine the pain and hurt that the Azar’s and many others like them would have felt. But that is not the only example.
The Barbados 33, ( with the assistance of the government of Barbados) arranged for a Condor flight coming to Tobago and Tobago to bring our citizens home free of charge, permission was there too refused. Then again when those 33 had to spend USD$ 25,000 to charter two flights back with a capacity of 60 odd seats, they came in with 33. They offered to bring home free of charge the students in Barbados, and another couple who had gone there on a four-day budget under a loan for medical treatment, and are still there – facing the chilling winds of no resource. A country that does not wish them to return –missed opportunities to show who we are.
I have observed that the British High Commissioner has indicated that there will be flights coming into Trinidad in the next several days to retrieve citizens of the United Kingdom. Michael Rooplal and Diana Singh, attorneys-at-law who have been working with me behind the scenes, are willing to help coordinate with citizens throughout the length and breadth of this world, from the United States, the Caribbean, India, from Europe, and indeed the United Kingdom.
Could we not have our authorities coordinate now so that these flights do not come in empty but assist our citizens, who would have great financial and logistical difficulties in obtaining flights on their own? What is the big problem here? Why can’t we do these simple things to help coordinate and bring our citizens home?
The issue of the wasted resources of beds in all of our facilities shows a lack of will or an inability to coordinate and to ramp up the numbers of our citizens who can return home immediately to be quarantined. All it takes is focused attention with a caring heart and a clear mind to achieve these things.
Of course, we hear that we have to protect the country from COVID-19. We hear that over and over but according to the numbers, we have no COVID-19 in Trinidad and Tobago. Therefore, the one possibility is for persons coming in to bring it here. We have quarantine facilities available. Is it that we do not have full confidence in our quarantine facilities and capacity and protocols?
Trinidad and Tobago let us show who we truly are. These acts of insensitivity and callousness cannot be in our names.
Member of Parliament, St Augustine
Former Minister for Legal Affairs