JOANNE Pantin made headlines earlier this month when she made an impassioned plea for an exemption to return to TT from the US.
Now Pantin and the mother of a three-month old baby are seeking answers on the policy being used to assess and determine applications for exemptions.
Pantin’s plea caught the attention of those in authority, including the Prime Minister, who, while not naming her, said the Government was managing the numbers of exemptions.
Dr Rowley said at a media conference at the Diplomatic Centre on July 13, “We are managing numbers. If there are extraordinary situations, like the woman who made the vid blog (sic) that caused the headline in the newspaper today. If there was a way to reach out individually to that person, then we will find it, but you know, the same pressures now to reach out to that woman, if I instruct the Minister of Finance now to send some money to her so she can pay for that room, or to buy food, then every other person has a claim on that, and say look, me too.
“And it’s preferential treatment, and is unequal treatment.
"So at the level of the government, we did that with our children in the universities, because that was slightly different, but John Public, if you do that, then you open yourself to all kinds of possibilities and negative responses.”
The application for judicial review by Pantin and the other woman, Raehana Lorick, was deemed urgent for hearing by Justice Betsy Ann Lambert-Peterson last week. The judge gave directions for the filing of evidence and the women’s application will come up for hearing on July 30.
In her application for exemption, Pantin said she was homeless in Miami, with little funds.
Lorick pleaded for an exemption for herself, her three-month old baby, who was born in the US in April, her elder child, and her husband, who is now on indefinite no-pay leave from his job at bpTT, where he is a production operator.
Lorick is stuck in Texas with her family. She said she left TT in February. She was seven months pregnant at the time. She and her daughter travelled to Houston for her to have medical treatment. Her husband managed to take emergency leave and meet his family on March 21, the day before the borders closed.
She said she has made numerous requests for an exemption for her and her family. She said she lost her job with Maersk Drilling because of the downturn in the economy, and now her debt is mounting.
Five months after going to the US, her family, at the end of July, will have nowhere to go.
“This situation is mentally, emotionally, physically and financially draining,” she said, adding that she has learned of other people being allowed to enter TT by yacht through Chaguaramas from Grenada and neighbouring islands.
She also alleged that there are “rich and powerful” people with political connections who have been allowed to re-enter.
“I am entitled to know the criteria that (are) being used to determine whether I can get an exemption order or not. By keeping the criteria secret, the minister can unlawfully discriminate against citizens and cherry-pick who he chooses to allow into the country without any form of transparency or accountability.
“Stranded persons like myself who are being denied entry have no way of knowing whether they meet the criteria, what aspect of it they do not meet, whether they have been treated unfairly and whether they have been arbitrarily bypassed in favour of others in breach of their constitutional right to equality of treatment under the section 4 (d) of the Constitution,” her affidavit says.
Pantin and Lorick are seeking declarations that the failure by the National Security Minister to disclose the policy and criteria being used to assess applications for exemptions are illegal, irrational and in breach of their constitutional rights. They also want an interim order disclosing the criteria so that they, and others like them, do not continue to “linger in limbo” with no idea of the criteria they must meet for permission to re-enter TT.
The women are represented by attorneys Anand Ramlogan, SC, Renuka Rambhajan, Ganesh Saroop and Che Dindial and Jared Jagroo, who have also filed a similar action on behalf of UNC activist Devant Maharaj, who is also seeking answers on the criteria for repatriating TT citizens.