THE PRIME Minister said it was not necessary for health officials to attend the March 27 meeting with Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez on covid19.
He was responding to a prime minister’s question in parliament Friday on whether the Health Minister or any medical personnel had attended the meeting.
Dr Rowley replied: “The context of a conversation between the Prime Minister of TT and the vice president of Venezuela with any connection to covid has to do with its national security implications. And, as such, the relevant officers who were required for such a conversation, the Minister of National Security and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, were present as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The discussion had nothing to do with the biological nature of the virus or its management in such a way.” He said TT was seven miles away from Venezuela – a country with about 30 million people, and one that “could supply us with an unending flood of refugees, many of whom might be carrying the virus.”
He added that TT had no idea what was happening in Venezuela in terms of their response to the pandemic. “And given the fact that we in TT from our own national security concerns (are) required to keep our borders closed and to ensure that Venezuela does not pose a threat to us, (therefore) the context of covid between TT and Venezuela is a national security issue that did not require medical doctors.”
Barataria/San Juan MP Dr Fuad Khan asked if prior to the meeting it was communicated the discussion would be on refugees and not covid19. Rowley replied he made no statement about refugees but Venezuelans coming to TT. He explained, Rodriguez was appointed head of the national covid19 response in Venezuela on February 27 and a few days later requested a courtesy call on the PM.
“We have said, both myself and other officers of the Cabinet, and we (have clearly) said that there was no pre-arranged agenda. It was a courtesy call in the context of our response to the covid emergency.”
Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal asked if the meeting was on national security why the Office of the Prime Minister did not consider having the Chief of Defence Staff and Commissioner of Police as part of the discussion. Rowley replied that it was not considered as two members of the National Security Council – himself and National Security Minister Stuart Young – were in attendance.
Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh then asked about media reports (Young made the comment at the daily media briefing Monday) that Rodriguez had flu-like symptoms and whether there was any consideration of testing to be done before she arrived in TT.
Rowley replied: “I am not responsible for the medical condition of the vice president of Venezuela.”
Moonilal then asked if Government was concerned about accepting a visit from the vice president of Venezuela 24 hours after her colleagues and officials, including the president of Venezuela, were indicted in the US on drug trafficking, narco trafficking and corruption charges.
Rowley replied: “No, we had no concern like that.”
The Opposition had previously raised concerns about the visit of Rodriguez as she was reportedly a sanctioned individual by the US. Rowley in response had accused the Opposition Leader of being a traittor seeking to stoke US sanctions, and the Opposition Leader in response called him a “Judas” who betrayed TT citizens.