There has been overwhelming anguish among our readers over the death of 85-year-old Kedar Gajadharsingh who, according to his daughter, died unexpectedly in England while waiting for the Government’s approval to return home to Trinidad.
Helen Gajadharsingh’s description of her father’s longing for home and his bewilderment at getting no response to repeated requests to the Ministry of National Security touched a chord of raw emotion. Amid the expressions of sadness, anger and betrayal is a continued sense of bewilderment over the Government’s policy regarding travel in and out of the country. We, too, must confess that after seven months of the national borders being closed, we are unclear about the Government’s policy and the basis on which approvals are granted and travel lists are compiled.
The Government may be surprised to learn that its almost daily announcements are not very effective in meeting the public’s need for information on which it can act. There is too much talking without enough listening to what people are asking. As a result, the responses of senior Government officials to the questions and concerns of an anxious public often come across as heartless, berating, and cast doubt on one’s love of country.
It has not escaped the public’s notice that Mr Gajadharsingh was staying with his daughter in the constituency of High Wycombe in England whose parliamentary representative, Steve Baker, incurred the wrath of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last week by raising the repatriation of T&T nationals wanting to come home. In an over-the-top response, Dr Rowley dismissed Baker, a Conservative MP since 2010, as “some itinerant MP”, and blasted the Opposition United National Congress as the villain of the piece. Even if all of this were true, the substantive issue under the PM’s theatrics was not PNM, UNC or Baker, but the status of ordinary citizens like Gajadharsingh who are trapped abroad and just longing to come home, if only to die.
Instead of indulging in unnecessary political bristling, the Prime Minister should turn his attention to the Ministry of National Security and call for a review and investigation of its management of the repatriation process, including its handling of requests by nationals stranded abroad.
The reason our nationals resort to seeking the assistance of anyone who will listen to them is because they are not getting answers from the Government and because the process employed by the ministry, such as it is, does not stand up to logic and compares unfavourably with those of countries all around us which are managing a far more complex border management programme, to greater ends.
Our Caricom neighbours have succeeded in keeping their Covid-19 infection rates low enough to enjoy the benefits of test-free travel among a group of selected countries, to open their borders to the rest of the world under strict testing regimes which keep their economies running and, on top of that, to welcome home their citizens and ours—without hassle.
Given this, we cannot rule out the possibility that stranded citizens like Kedar Gajadharsingh are the victims of an inefficient and ineffective border control programme.