Woman, 74, challenges TT's exemption policy

A 74-year-old pensioner from Arima is challenging Trinidad and Tobago’s closed border policy.

On Monday, attorneys representing Radhikar Ramoutar wrote to the ministers of National Security and Health threatening legal action.

They have asked Ministers Stuart Young and Terrence Deyalsingh to change the regulations which prevents citizens from returning home.

Attorneys Rhea Khan, Stefan Ramkissoon, Kiel Taklalsingh and Dinesh Rambally say their client does not consider the process of seeking or obtaining an exemption to be lawful or likely to bring her any practical relief, because she will still be unable to charter a flight to return to TT even if an exemption was granted to her.

TT air and sea borders were shut in March last year to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Ramoutar left TT on February 21 last year to visit her daughter whose husband had died in Canada. She said she only planned to stay two weeks. She applied for an exemption on July 7, 2020.

The letter said before the decision to close the borders, Ramoutar was self-sufficient and lived independently. She shopped for herself, did her own banking and maintained her property.

“Our client derived a sense of pride and satisfaction in being able to sustain and care for herself which contributed significantly to the quality and meaning of her life.”

Khan said Ramoutar also required management of her pacemaker in TT and was receiving medical treatment for arthritis and knee issues.

“She has suffered hardship because of your unlawful conduct. She has incurred medical expenses in Canada in the approximate sum of $7,000 CAN. On one occasion, due to the stress and anguish of her situation directly attributable to your unlawful decision, she underwent hospitalisation because of dangerously elevated blood pressure.

“Further, due to her prolonged exposure to the cold weather in Canada, her arthritis condition has been exacerbated and she now suffers from crippling body pains. Our client lives in unbearable agony and is materially confined to a single room all day. She has become totally dependent on her daughter and other persons for her daily needs and basic necessities.

“To add insult to injury, her pension benefits in TT have been discontinued and/or suspended because she she must present herself to the relevant office in order to show “proof of life.”

The attorneys have accused the ministers of having no statutory power or legal authority to create a regulation to close all sea and air ports without parliamentary scrutiny and oversight since the rights of citizens are being infringed because of the closed-border policy.

“We contend that the use of these regulations, without parliamentary scrutiny, oversight and approval, to limit the fundamental rights and freedoms of our society is directly repugnant to our society’s constitutional norms and values.

“It is anathema to our identity as a sovereign democratic state and should the regulation not be expunged and the air and sea ports be made accessible to our client, we intend to file judicial review proceedings to declare your actions as arbitrary, unlawful and/or in breach of her constitutional rights. We propose to further seek the appropriate relief thereby compelling you to act lawfully,” the letter said.

The ministers were given until midday on Friday to respond.

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