National Security Minister Stuart Young has been sent a letter by one of the stranded Trinidadians in Suriname who are pleading with government to re-open TT's borders, closed because of the coronavirus threat, to allow them to come home.
The minister has now told one member of the group of 32 oil and gas professionals who found themselves unable to return home when TT closed its borders on March 23, that he can write to him setting out details why he should be allowed back into TT, although there are travel restrictions in place to mitigate the spread of covid19 here.
All 32 are expected to do so after Young replied to a pre-action protocol letter sent on behalf of Lawrence Balkaran, one of the 32, telling him he should apply directly to him. Balkaran is represented by attorneys Gerald Ramdeen and Umesh Maharaj who wrote to the minister on Wednesday.
On Monday, Young, at a media briefing said “no amount of pleading and coming from all directions is going to assist because once you allow one person to break that barrier then when do you stop? What is the difference between 35 and others in other parts of the world? We are not granting exemptions … They are comfortable in a hotel,” Young said.
However, in his Thursday letter, the minister admitted to having the discretion to permit entry into TT and said that discretion will be exercised on the individual circumstances of each case and “the need to balance the hardship which may be caused to persons wishing to enter TT, on the one hand, and the pressing responsibility to protect and safeguard the health and well-being of all residents, on the other.”
Young said in exercising his discretion, he will take the advice of the public health professionals and asked Balkaran to write to him directly.
The other 31, all of whom are oil and gas professionals working for TT-based companies, are also expected to write to the minister, individually.
They have also said they are willing to submit themselves to any mandatory quarantine imposed as a condition of their entrance in TT.
In Wednesday’s pre-action letter, Maharaj described the Government’s policy as “disturbing” since the protection and care did not extend to TT citizens in foreign jurisdictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is in spite of the power to mandatorily quarantine persons who enter the country via ship or aircraft that exists under the provisions of the Quarantine Act which would achieve the effect of allowing nationals to re-enter the country while protecting those nationals already in the country,” the letter said.
The letter said the government’s policy was “exceptionally uncaring and callous,” and also accused the government of transferring its responsibility to ensure the safety and security of its citizens to other States.
The group had expected to return to TT on March 22 on a special flight to repatriate stranded Surinamese in this country as well as TT citizens stuck there.
The flight was cancelled when the flight crew called in sick and the flight was rescheduled for the next day and the group was told they would be accommodated if the minister gave his approval.
On that day, the order to shut TT borders took effect from midnight to April 30 and the minister refused to give his approval for the flight to land in Piarco, leaving the group stranded in Suriname.