“We can never forgive the Government policy that denied my father the right to return home.”
These were the words of a grieving Helen Gajadharsingh as she relayed how her 85-year-old father, Tunapuna resident Kedar Gajadharsingh, passed away last month in England.
Gajadharsingh, an insurance agent with Tatil, was stranded abroad after Trinidad and Tobago closed its borders in March.
In a telephone interview with the Express on Sunday, Helen said for months her father yearned to return home and would sit daily with his IPad scouring online news for updates from Trinidad.
“Dad used to sit in my garden through the summer and I could see he was yearning to return home as he looked up at the sky wishing he could go home,” she said.
Gajadharsingh died in his sleep on September 20. His wish to return home never came to pass.
Helen said up until yesterday there was no reply from the Ministry of National Security to several exemption requests she and her family sent on his behalf.
Her father was cremated on October 9.
“It’s been a huge and tragic shock to us. His island in the sun was calling but he was denied the human right to return to his home. He was a proud Trinidadian, 85 years old, locked out of his country.
“He was Covid negative but (prohibited) from returning home due to Government policy. We are left with his ashes which we will return to Trinidad when the borders are open,” a distraught Helen wrote on Facebook last Friday.
Still reeling from the shock of losing her father, Helen is now hopeful the T&T Government will review its position regarding repatriation of citizens.
“We very much understand about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the world but other countries managed to bring their citizens home on repatriation flights. I think with the progress that has been made since March, in terms of Covid testing, I will just ask them to relook at their processes, because I don’t know of any other country that denies their citizens the right to return,” she told the Express.
In good health
Helen said her father left Trinidad for Florida in early March to undergo an eye operation.
Soon after T&T closed its borders to all travellers, leaving him with no choice but to stay in Miami.
After spending four months in Florida, with no response from T&T to an exemption request submitted by his sister, he flew to England on July 23 to be with his children.
“He stayed with me for eight weeks. I live in an area called High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England. Then he went to visit my brother who lives in the countryside in England on September 18. He passed away on the morning of September 20,” she recalled.
She said prior to her father’s death, she also wrote to the Ministry of National Security seeking an exemption for her father to return to Trinidad but never received a response.
She said up until the time of her father’s death, he operated an agency for the Tatil.
She pointed out that her father was in excellent health.
“At 85-years-old he was very, very sharp. He was still running his business and I think that’s what made him sad because he just couldn’t. There were a lot of things he wanted to do,” she lamented.
“He certainly was in good health. He wouldn’t have been travelling from Miami to London by himself if he wasn’t. And he came through Heathrow pushing his trolley, and I said to him, ‘Why didn’t you wait for some help?’ and he said, ‘No I didn’t need the help’,” she went on.
Helen, the eldest of Gajadharsingh’s five children, has been living in England since she was six years old.
She said over the years she has spent a lot of time in Trinidad. The last time she visited Trinidad was in June last year, when she spent two weeks with her father.
She said she and her siblings have always felt very close to Trinidad but this ordeal has left them very sad and hurt.
She said their only consolation is that their father was able to spend time with them before he died.
“All he wanted was to go back to Trinidad, having been out since March and in his heart that’s what he wanted to do and that’s why he read the newspaper on his Ipad everyday.
“He looked out for any news. He couldn’t understand why he wasn’t permitted to go home as a citizen of T&T. But if he had passed away in Trinidad, who would have done all the arrangements, the cremation? If anything, that’s the only positive, that he was here with us,” Helen said.
The Wycombe resident said she was happy to see her Member of Parliament, Steve Baker, raise the issue of the repatriation of T&T citizens in the UK Parliament last week.
During last week Tuesday’s sitting of the House of Commons, Baker called on the T&T Government to put things in place to repatriate T&T nationals stranded in the UK.
Baker highlighted that T&T citizens in his constituency were burning through their savings and terrified about failing to get home to protect their homes and businesses from approaching severe weather.
“I think it is common humanity to enable people to return to protect their homes,” he stressed.