FORMER opposition MP Prakash Ramadhar expressed optimism on Sunday that the new online exemption process which will be launched on Monday will be effective. Ramadhar, an attorney by profession, also believed that National Security Minister Stuart Young was doing the correct thing by taking this approach.
The former PP justice minister has been legally representing some TT nationals who are overseas and seeking exemptions from the National Security Ministry to return home as the covid19 pandemic continues.
Ramadhar told Newsday," I knew there was already one (an online process) and I'm very happy if this new system could add more efficiency and speed to deal with the many (TT nationals) who are still out and are wishing to return home."
He continued, "I think it was very important for the public to be informed as to the numbers (of people) who have already been granted exemptions. It is a fair number but certainly there are many. many others who require urgent or immediate attention."
Ramadhar said, "I look forward now to a more transparent approach to things. I think what is necessary is a coordination between the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Health, to ascertain the capacity to bring in our citizens as quickly as possible and have them quarantined.
He added that he has been making this call to the relevant authorities since last March. "Better late than never. We can have that coordination to optimise to absorb and allow citizens in." Ramadhar concluded, "It is a very healthy development and I think the Minister is on the right track."
At a news conference at the MSJ's San Fernando office on Sunday, MSJ leader David Abdulah said, "If it is a transparent process and facilitates the applicants, knowing exactly where they are, so they are not waiting, days and weeks and months and get no feedback."
Abdulah reiterated that if this process is more transparent and efficient, the MSJ would support it. But he added, "We'll have to see how it goes." Young announced the new online process at a news conference last Friday. On Saturday, Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne said information about this process has been sent to TT's overseas missions.
As of January 21, 19.941 applications for exemptions were made and 11,682 were granted. On October 30, November 20 and December 23, 2020, 12, 717, 13,922 and 17,211 applications were made for exemptions respectively. The respective applications granted for those dates were 6,972; 7,895 and 9,557.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has criticised the online exemption policy, which forms part of a no-confidence motion against Young which will be debated in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.