Stuart Young

National Security Minister Stuart Young 

THE Ministry of National Security was up to yesterday evening in the process of communicating with the authorities in Suriname in an attempt to have at least one Trinidad and Tobago national currently in that country be tested for COVID-19.

That correspondence came in light of a letter written to National Security Minister Stuart Young by attorneys Gerald Ramdeen and Umesh Maharaj who are representing 32 nationals in Suriname who are unable to return home due to the lockdown of T&T’s borders.

Last week, the attorneys wrote to the minister saying their clients wished to return home but were being denied from doing so and that this was in breach of their constitutional rights.

In response to that letter, Young advised that each of the nationals disclose information to him of their individual circumstances and in turn, based on that information, he would decide whether he would exercise his power to temporarily open the border to let them in. The minister also requested information on whether the applicant, Ashmeed Syne, had been tested by any doctor in Suriname and the results of the test.

Syne is one of 32 nationals currently in Suriname in their professional capacity after going there to work in the oil and gas industry on behalf of Trinidad and Tobago-based companies.

“Kindly advise whether your client has been tested by any doctor in Suriname for COVID-19 and if so kindly provide me with the results, if not, please advise your client that he is required to be tested for COVID-19 in Suriname and that such results need to be provided to us here in Trinidad. This is required as a matter of urgency for the medical consideration of your client’s request.

“It is recognised that the spread of the COVID-19 virus via travel on airplanes is an issue for consideration. What are the proposed travel arrangements for your client in the event that an exemption for his entry into Trinidad is granted,” Young wrote in an emailed response.

No symptoms

But on Tuesday evening, the attorneys again wrote to the minister informing him that like Trinidad and Tobago, in Suriname COVID-19 tests are not being carried out if a person is asymptomatic, that is, if they do not show symptoms of the virus.

They made reference to statements made by both Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh as well as Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram during the Ministry of Health’s daily press conferences.

“In answer to your request, I wish to indicate that my client has not been tested for COVID-19 in Suriname and is unable to be tested in Suriname at present because he has been unable to contact a medical professional to arrange for a test to be done and does not wish in an attempt to access testing, to expose himself to anyone who may possibly have the virus.

“Of course, as indicated in my previous correspondence, my client has not exhibited any sign of the COVID-19 virus and at present is asymptomatic. Your request which of course I trust is based upon the expert medical advice that you are receiving in determining my client’s request is clearly apposite to the present policy of the government,” they wrote.

The attorneys gave Young until midday yesterday to respond or else a constitutional motion would have been filed at the High Court. They questioned how some Trinidad and Tobago nationals who went on a cruise could be allowed back into the country, 49 of whom have since been tested positive for the virus, but their client was not allowed to do so.

Unreasonable threats

Just around the time of the deadline given, Young responded: “We are exploring whether it can be arranged for a doctor in Suriname to examine your client. The nationals who returned from Guadeloupe (on the cruise) were medically examined prior to their self-arranged return to Trinidad before the borders were closed. We are advised that a medical examination should be performed to get a clinical picture of your client’s health.

“You would also appreciate that the chief medical officer and the medical staff in Trinidad are presently dealing with all of the realities of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, including positive cases in Trinidad and Tobago. Accordingly your continued unilateral deadlines and threats for response are unreasonable. This matter is receiving the urgent attention that it deserves in very trying times.

“Kindly provide the requested information with respect to your client and we shall then be in a position to revert within 24-48 hours as we will have to make the arrangements with medical personnel in Suriname to have your client examined. Your client’s well-being is of concern,” Young stated.

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