THE EDITOR: I read with awe and trepidation the message offered to the public by the Minister of National Security that there are no nationals stranded abroad. I left Trinidad early September at the behest of my wife to accompany her to return my daughter – who had fallen ill in Trinidad and no ameliorative solution was offered by the private medical sector – to the UK where she and all my children were born and raised.
My abode is Trinidad, where I have been living for the past 13 years, with annual trips to be with my family. Because of the lockdown and limited exit flights, both my daughter and wife could not leave in April and July respectively.
My return flight was the beginning of November but I could not leave London as British Airways was not flying to Trinidad because of the lockdown. I then decided I would take the first opportunity to leave: on January 10 to Barbados. I landed in Barbados with a negative PCR test result and was placed into involuntary quarantine – not at a hotel of my choosing. On January 12 I took another covid19 test but the result was not received until January 24.
Before this date I exhausted all avenues to get out of quarantine and was directed by the covid19 hotline to go to the Best Dos Santos Rapid Result Labs for another test but I had to wait ten days in quarantine before so doing. This test – and the result – took ten minutes on January 21. It was negative.
In the meantime I wrote via WhatsApp to the minister's publicly available mobile number on January 17, 18, and 29, supplying a photo of my TT passport. I received not a single reply. When the online application form became available on January 25, I submitted an application and received an automatic reply giving the reference number BB21010161E.
There was a CAL repatriation flight leaving Barbados on January 30 and I wrote to the ministry again on January 27 – without reply.
I am now in Barbados for nearly four weeks, paying hotel, food and transportation bills from the pocket of a self-employed retiree. Thus when the minister refers to injustice and victims as “rabble-rousers, mischief-makers and those who want to be relevant,” I wonder where this is coming from since he represents the Government and it clearly demonstrates a propensity for disregard of human suffering and anxiety, and appears to me to epitomise the worst forms of irresponsible government.
At 72 years old, am I supposed to sit comfortably, head held high, while this office plays ping pong with the lives of nationals literally stranded abroad with little contact with people and absolutely no response from the much exalted and professed professionalism of a ministerial department that gleefully projects that there are “no stuck or stranded nationals...being denied entry into Trinidad?”
How absolutely lovely that sounds, self-approbated, confident with a whimsical smile of victory of the new online policy. While I remain, from my own catalogued experience, a victim of that triumphant policy.
AMON SABA SAAKANA