Trinidad and Tobago citizens stranded in countries across the world will be allowed to come home, but not at the same time, says Attorney General Faris Al Rawi.
He said the state’s quarantine facilities were at maximum capacity and it would irresponsible for a government to continue allowing citizens to return home.
During a campaign walkabout in the San Fernando West constituency on Tuesday, Al Rawi told the Express that the government was not discriminating in the approval of exemptions.
This, he said, was evident in the approval of exemption to Opposition MP Barry Padarath who is expected to return home this week.
He said, “We have approximately hundreds of people in quarantine. The state facilities are at maximum capacity right now. Obviously, you can’t accept when the cup is full, you got to empty it, decant and then go again.”
Al Rawi said persons seeking exemption were asked to supply the relevant information to the Ministry of National Security. These exemptions, he said, were granted in batches to prevent overcrowding at the quarantine facilities.
He said, however, many persons granted exemptions were unable to return due to difficulty in making travel arrangements.
Turning to Padarath, Al Rawi said, “So the fact that Mr Padarath is wealthy enough to charter a plane which is what he has done. Some other people are in a difficult position because they don’t have the wealth like Padarath. They may have the approval granted but they may not take the same time frame as Mr Padarath. But clearly Mr Padarath is a wealthy man so that is his business...at least you know there is no political discrimination in the position.”
Padarath, who was selected as the United National Congress (UNC) candidate for Princes Town, was granted exemption along with his infant daughter to return home.
He was expected to return on a private charter flight on Wednesday. That flight, however, was cancelled as the other passengers did not have an exemption to enter Trinidad.
Padarath has since made alternative arrangements to fly from Miami to Antigua and then a charter from Antigua to Trinidad on Friday.
Al Rawi said he was also concerned that fishermen in San Fernando were claiming that they have been excluded from government’s plan to redevelop the San Fernando Waterfront.
He said, consultation was ongoing and there was no intention to move the fisherfolk at this time.
The San Fernando West MP said the fisherfolk, and citizens, seem to be confused over the phases detailed in construction of the billion-dollar waterfront project.
Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan turned the sod to begin phase one, the Lady Hailes Avenue widening project.
Fishermen, however, complained they were never consulted in the waterfront project.
Salim Gool, spokesperson for the fishermen, said followed the sod turning ceremony fishermen were contacted for a meeting with the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UdeCOTT) but that meeting was cancelled.
Gool said the fishermen were refusing to be relocated to Hatters Panyard.
Al Rawi said, however, there appeared to be some confusion with the road widening project and relocation of the fisherfolk.
He said, “There were allegations that the fisherfolk were not consulted and somebody was trying to move them. That is not the case and there was confusion with the road widening and the fish folk. The San Fernando Redevelopment Plan, which as MP I have caused, is comprised of roughly 30 different projects starting with the 3.8 hector reclamation which is underway, then moving to Plaza San Carlo which is underway. Then moving to the carpark which should be commissioned in a matter of days, that’s the hospital carpark....then moving to the fishing port which we had an outstanding consultation to do.”
Al Rawi said consultation was done with the fishermen following written and recorded requests.
Detailing the development project, Al Rawi said contractors were on site to begin the Lady Hailes road widening and the PTSC bus yard redevelopment. He said this will be followed by the Embacadere and Hatters Panyard redevelopment, a roundabout, roadway crossing and upgrades of the Skinner Park grounds.
“My message is please focus, don’t confuse the left hand with the right hand there are different aspects of the project,” he said.
Al Rawi said he was pleased with his performance in the San Fernando West constituency in the past five years.
And in his role as attorney general, Al Rawi said, he had broken a record.
He said, “I did a lot of work and as attorney general. My staff told me I have broken every record of attorneys general in Trinidad and Tobago in passing the most laws that have been implemented in the time I have been attorney general. We had radical transformation of the criminal justice system, radical transformation for children for vulnerable for families, white collar crime and many others.”
As Member of Parliament, Al Rawi said, he had overseen significant development throughout the constituency, including new homes, community centres and the long awaited San Fernando Waterfront Project.