There are good reasons for allowing the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) contingent in.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday defended the Government’s decision to grant exemptions for some 250 persons affiliated with the CPL T20 cricket tournament to enter Trinidad and Tobago, while leaving thousands of nationals who want to return outside.
Responding to criticisms that the borders were being opened to allow the CPL personnel in, while T&T citizens were being kept out, the Prime Minister said: “The CPL players are not coming from places where they can’t get out, places where the borders are closed. We are doing a number of things at once, we are closing our borders to keep the virus out, priority number one. Secondly, we are bringing our people in from countries where the infection is raging, slowly and carefully. And, thirdly, we want our economy to stay alive and this cricket is part of our economic resurgence.
“So I don’t know that the cricket is in competition with anybody... As a matter of fact, those who want to come home, they will want to meet us alive and (with) an economy that is alive,” he added.
Speaking at the official opening of the Bagatelle Community Centre in Diego Martin, Rowley said the international exposure which the country would gain from hosting the CPL tournament (August 18-September 12) was considerable.
“It is the only tournament in the world (taking place) so we expect to be viewed from India, South Africa...and one of the things we have negotiated and the benefit that we expect to get, is that because the entire tournament is here in Trinidad and Tobago for that entire period, we will be featured worldwide, so it is probably our best exposure.
“And by playing the tournament here we are sending a signal, and it is accepted worldwide, that our condition in Trinidad and Tobago is as healthy as it could be in this pandemic (world), and that we are coming back to some semblance of normalcy.
“It is an economic thing, it is a promotional thing and I think the sportsmen and women in Trinidad and Tobago, in the region and in the wider world would be very happy,” the Prime Minister stated.
He said the West Indies started playing cricket in England on Wednesday and that too was a good development.
PM: Hilton is getting business
In terms of the quarantining arrangements for the CPL contingent, Rowley said the Chief Medical Officer had authorised all the protocols for entry.
He said all the CPL teams would be accommodated at Hilton Trinidad, which would be used for nothing else during the period of the games.
He said people would be tested before they leave their respective countries and on arrival here would be quarantined in small groups, and after seven days they would be tested again. If they are still negative, they would be allowed to mix with a bigger group, and then they can go and play.
The entire tournament is being played in Trinidad and Tobago and all the teams would be in this country for “the build-up of the tournament”, he said. The Prime Minister said since the CPL is paying for the quarantine, one of the benefits is that the Hilton will get some business.
Approximately 250 people will be staying at the Hilton, which is State-owned.
“This brings business to the Hilton, which is not to be sneezed at,” he said.
Rowley said this is the last year of the existing arrangement with the CPL.
“But when we negotiated this, we did it for a three year period. What we have agreed to do in this negotiation...is that the CPL will consider concluding negotiations with us for another three years,” he said.
PM slams ‘naked lies’
Asked about Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s allegation that People’s National Movement (PNM) supporters are being allowed into Trinidad and Tobago through some backdoor arrangement during the Covid-19 lockdown, the Prime Minister said the Opposition Leader had a habit of saying things which were not true.
Saying that such statements do not portray the country in a good light, especially when they are based on “naked lies”, he said it must be hurtful to the people who run the show.
He recalled that Persad-Bissessar made the same allegation with the Venezuelans. He said when the Government was dealing with the Venezuelan migrant problem, the Opposition Leader was out front saying that the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) was registering Venezuelans to vote, when all that was happening was that the Government was keeping a record of the Venezuelans in the country via the Ministry of National Security.
He stressed that no Venezuelan could have gotten on the EBC list by any subterfuge.
Rowley said what was happening in the United States with respect to coronavirus was “frightening”. He said in every corner of the US were Trinidad and Tobago citizens.
“So when we say we close the border it is not to punish anybody, it is to keep the virus out,” he said.
He said his Government was managing the exemptions, not based on how many people want to come in, but on whether the health system could manage the numbers and not be overcome by the number of infections.
“It would be irresponsible of us at this stage to take advice from an irresponsible, ambitious leader telling lies about elections, and embarrassing the country and talking about people are being brought in for elections,” Rowley said. “That is totally untrue... As a matter of fact, as leader of a political party I have no idea who is coming in, outside of what National Security might raise with me from time to time for a particular reason.
“I don’t know where she (the Opposition Leader) gets her information from, but suffice to say it is all lies,” he added.
PM: PNM polls are for the PNM
On the election observers, Rowley said he expected an answer soon from both Caricom and the Commonwealth.
He said any observer personnel must get into the country by July 23 if they are to go into quarantine and come out in time to observe the polls on August 10. If they don’t make this deadline, they will have to do their monitoring from quarantine, if that is possible, he added.
Asked whether the PNM had done internal polling and what it showed, the Prime Minister said: “The PNM’s polls are for the PNM.”
He said he had confidence in the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
“Not everyone would agree with what you have done, but I think the vast majority of people in this country would acknowledge that we have governed this country in a very difficult period and that we have governed it well, we have made the most of what was available to us and we have done so in the interest of the population,” he said.
Asked about a report on social media that PNM candidate Winston “Gypsy” Peters was having some domestic violence issues, the Prime Minister said he did not take his information from social media.
“Social media is great technology and it represents the best and the worst. Matters concerning me or the Government when it comes from social media, I check it first before I absorb it, so I am not going to refer to anything on social media about anybody”