A THREAT of legal action has been issued to National Security Minister Stuart Young over his refusal to re-open the country’s borders to allow the entry of 32 Trinidad and Tobago nationals currently in Suriname.
Attorneys representing the citizens issued a pre-action protocol letter to the minister on Wednesday evening, on behalf of one of them, Lawrence Balkaran, saying the closure of the borders was “a disturbing feature of the policy” because while attempts were being made to protect and care for lives of citizens, it seems as though the protection and care does not extend to citizens in foreign territories.
Around midday yesterday, the minister responded to the letter, advising that Balkaran make a formal application to justify why he should be allowed into the country.
“I accept that I have a discretion under the regulation to permit the entry into Trinidad of aircraft carrying passengers. That discretion will be exercised having regard to the individual circumstances of each case, and the need to balance the hardship which may be caused to persons wishing to enter Trinidad and Tobago, on the one hand, and the pressing responsibility to protect and safeguard the health and well-being of all residents, on the other.
“In exercising my discretion, I will take the advice of the public health professionals.
“Please therefore inform Mr Balkaran that he should apply to me directly for an exemption, setting out in detail his circumstances and stating why I should exercise my discretion in his favour,” Young wrote.
Uncaring and callous
The pre-action protocol letter which was issued by attorneys Gerald Ramdeen and Umesh Maharaj, stated the policy was exceptionally “uncaring and callous and is apposite to that of every other civilised state battling the global pandemic.”
“While other countries treat as paramount the safety and security of their citizens wherever they may be, this Government prides itself on transferring the responsibility to ensure the safety and security of its citizens to other sovereign states,” the attorneys stated.
They said those in Suriname have not been experiencing any symptoms of the COVID-19, and were there in their professional capacity working in the oil and gas and professional services sector, on behalf of the Trinidad and Tobago-based companies.
“The services being provided by these nationals are highly specialised and generate direct benefit to the economy of Trinidad and Tobago.
Young responded to questions about the group at the Ministry of Health news briefing on Wednesday. “There is some misinformation being carried out there, particularly in social media, with regard to the people in Suriname.
“On Saturday, I, as Minister of National Security, sent very clear instructions very early, on Saturday night and very early on Sunday morning, to Suriname Airways that they could bring our nationals home because we had not yet locked our borders.
“Suriname Airways was unable to carry their flight on Sunday because they could not find a crew. So the suggestion that the Government somehow prevented it is completely untrue, and I would like to correct that,” Young said.