TEN months after the government closed the air and maritime borders, an Opposition Senator is making a case, “to open the borders and bring our people home.”
Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial said there is nothing preventing the government managing the influx of nationals who wish to return home.
In fact, she said, speaking on the United National Congress (UNC) virtual election platform on Monday night, both the CMO and CMOH at a public hearing last week said there was a low risk of contracting covid19 at the airport.
“We were looking at the Piarco area and the Airports Authority (AA) on its ability to manage, if and when borders are open. They said with a negative PCR test as well as with the exit requirements of other countries, it is very unlikely someone will contract covid19 at the airport. It is a low risk.
"So why do you have people locked out? You can screen, test, isolate and quarantine as necessary,” she suggested.
She accused government of planting stories in the heads of supporters every time the issue of opening the border is broached, the latest story being that the new strain of covid19 will kill everyone if the borders are opened.
“Well, viruses evolve. Every year the flu virus evolves. That’s what they do.
"I want to tell the PNM government it is time you evolve into some actual leaders. Evolve like leaders we see elsewhere in the Caribbean,” she said using Barbados and Jamaica which have opened their borders and have lower rates of infection than Trinidad and Tobago, to support her position.
“They did not just bring back home their nationals, they allowed their tourism sector to open because they have what we lack – leadership, courage and compassion for their own ordinary citizens. They have shown greater compassion for their citizens than National Security Minister Stuart Young and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has shown for ours.
“I say to the government tonight, stop treating our sisters and brothers like pothounds and leaving them outside while everybody with pedigree flying in and out.”
Calling on government to provide statistics to show how many people have been infected by returning nationals, Lutchmedial said with the exception of the initial influx of cruise ship passengers in the early days of the pandemic, the numbers are very low.
“Between November and December, it was five per cent of the total number of infections. Can you say the same about the people we saw jamming and wining up at Tyrico or feteing on No Man’s Land?
“No. That is to show how it does not make any sense. The narrative government would peddle would change depending on who stands to benefit."
She drew a comparison with the closure of bars in a socially distanced enviornment where customers sanitise and temperature checks are done to the opening of malls for Christmas, when shoppers swarmed the buildings without observing the health regulations.
“But bars must not have people. They have to lose money.”
She said while government has closed the airport, the borders in the southern and southwestern peninsula remain wide open to illegal immigrants who arrived here in droves daily.
She said while the PM boasts about the registration of 16,000 Venezuelan nationals, who are all gainfully employed, he omitted to say these foreigners are being exploited in jobs his citizens do not have.
“You are presiding over a human-rights crisis in relation to nationals and non-nationals alike,”
She said a policy to manage the borders must be logical and rational and not at the discretion of the minister.
”It’s time to scrap this exemption and get rid of the corruption in exemption.”
She said citizens have a right of return under international laws and conventions and the UNC will continue to fight asit is doing before the courts at present, through a constitutional motion seeking relief for people who are stranded abroad.