NATIONAL Security Minister Stuart Young is being challenged by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to say which law gives him the jurisdiction and power to deny or grant citizens the right to enter Trinidad and Tobago.
Persad-Bissessar said the Constitution is clear that a citizen who lands here cannot be denied the right to entry.
Yet, she said, some nationals have been stranded abroad for ten months since the border was closed due to the pandemic, while selected people have been given exemptions for themselves and their families to fly in and out.
Speaking on a virtual by-election campaign platform on Monday night, Persad-Bissessar clarified she was neither jealous nor envious that the Prime Minister’s daughter, the Attorney General’s son, MPs and ministers and their families were granted exemptions.
She said clear and concise border exemption guidelines that instil trust in the system are needed as the present system seems to be unfair and discriminatory.
Persad-Bissessar said the powers which Young has been exercising in keeping nationals away are not contained in the Immigration Act, Public Health Regulations Act nor the Quarantine Act.
She said that exemption policy was never brought to Parliament for scrutiny as is the normal procedure.
“Which statute in this country gave this one man this power to refuse citizens to come back home, when the Constitution says no citizen must be debarred from entering here?"
Persad-Bissessar did not cite the relevant section of the Consitution, but instead challenged Young: “Show me where it is in law,” saying there is cause for research to show where he gets this "tremendous power" to exempt one but deny another.
“You must operate with legal power. Are you operating illegally using the fear of death, which is what they have been doing since last year to block some from coming home?” she asked
She also called on Young to clarify if people are taking advantage of loopholes in the arrangement in that previously, whereas exemptions were granted before flights were booked, the situation has now been reversed.
“I am being told people are booking flights and some who have contacts board the aircraft and when they land here, they say. 'You have to let us stay.' Airlines are getting the exemptions.
“You cannot send them back, because they are citizens of TT. It is in the Constitution.”
To maintain secrecy about who is being granted exemptions, Persad-Bissessar said, senior immigration officers have been prevented from accessing the computers. She said since the manifest of sanctioned Venezuelan national Delcy Rodriguez and her team's arrival on a sanctioned aircraft was made public, access to the computer system at the Piarco International Airport has been blocked.
“I am told you (Young) blocked out all the senior people in the immigration and you have only four junior people in immigration having access to those computers.
“Why? Who else is coming here you don’t want us to know about?
“Tell us why you shut down access to the immigration officers to the computer system.
“The truth will come out," she concluded. "No matter how much you block, just like we found out about Delcy, we will find out about others.”