Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is asking citizens to watch “with a hawk eye” for any attempt by government to give naturalised status to Venezuelan nationals so they can vote in Trinidad and Tobago elections.
She said she is concerned that the permits allowing 16,000 Venezuelans to live and work in this country for a year have expired, amid reports they will be renewed.
“The law is very clear in the Immigration Act that the Minister of National Security does have the jurisdiction to grant a permit, which must not exceed 12 months, for a person to enter, and for those who are already here."
But she said the law is also clear that such permits cannot be renewed. Instead, a new permit must be issued.
In fact, however, Section 10 (5) of the Immigration Act says: "The Minister may, at any time in writing, extend, vary or cancel a permit."
“What frightens me is that this government is so hell-bent on winning an election by any means necessary that under law, a non-Commonwealth citizen can come in here, and for whatever period they stay, they can become a naturalised citizen.
“You know what is going to happen there? They can vote.
"So, they have already been here for one year; some have been here before. The minister has the power to say, 'You have been here for X number of years, we can naturalise you, you become a citizen by naturalisation and you can vote.'
“So we have to keep our eyes on this, because next thing you know, 16,000, 20,000 being naturalised over time and voting. We have to keep an eye on what is happening with immigration.”
Addressing a virtual by-election campaign meeting on Monday, Persad-Bissessar said she has never seen so much suffering among ordinary people during her lifetime in politics.
“Crime is increasing, unemployment is rising, businesses are shutting down. Many people wake up in the morning wondering at the end of the day if they will still have a job.”
In the midst of this, she said, government measures to impose more taxes go into effect this month. She singled out the additional taxes being imposed on the used car dealers' industry and how this will marginalise ordinary people who cannot afford a new car.
She said the January 25 by-elections must send a message to government that people have had enough of increasing crime, stranded nationals abroad, high unemployment, bad roads, and the forex shortage
The UNC has selected in the borough of Point Fortin (Hollywood) Daniel John; Princes Town (St Mary’s/Hindustan) Tylon Farrell; borough of Chaguanas (Cunupia) Richard Sukdeo; borough of Arima (Arima Central) Sheldon Garcia; and Diego Martin (Morne Coco/Alyce Glen) John Laquis.
The seats were made vacant by former councillors who stood for Parliament and won in the August 10 general election.