UNC defends statement on United States’ travel advisory

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal. -
Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal. -

UNC MP for Oropouche East Dr Roodal Moonilal on Sunday doubled down on a statement made by the party in response to a travel advisory issued by the United States which advised against travelling to Trinidad and Tobago amid crime and covid19 concerns.

Moonilal, at a news briefing at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in Port of Spain, said the areas listed in their statement were well known as “hotspots” and were in PNM strongholds.

“The US over the years have identified certain areas in this country that they advise their citizens, employees and workers not to go. And those areas are areas that have been represented for donkey years by the People’s National Movement.

“The people of TT all know areas that are identified as hotspots. I do not know of any people who talk of going into those areas and taking an afternoon stroll,” Moonilal said.

Along with pointing out that for years advisories have been warning against travel to TT, he noted that it is the first time in his recollection that the country was given a level four warning.

“So there is no need to make a mountain of a molehill by questioning the United National Congress’ observation.”

He said the more pressing issue is that a political party has represented several areas, since independence, which continue to be identified as dangerous areas.

“That has to do not only with the issue of security, but the issue of economic opportunity, employment, wealth generation, the breakdown of the family and the church.”

Moonilal also warned the US embassy to be “cautious” of their statements.

Senator Anil Roberts said the country should forgive the embassy for the statements made against the UNC and pointed out times when the Prime Minister was snubbed by the US.

“There is no ambassador and no leadership there, so we forgive them. However, do you realise that President Joe Biden and Senator Antony Blinken did not invite Keith Rowley to the talks on climate change that they were discussing with Caricom? That is a direct dismissal of TT. That is the story, not whether there is an advisory.”

On April 21 the embassy issued a travel advisory warning its citizens not to travel to TT.

“Do not travel to Trinidad and Tobago due to restricted travel options put in place to prevent covid19,” the advisory said.

“Exercise increased caution in Trinidad and Tobago due to crime, terrorism, and kidnapping. Some areas have increased risk.” These included Laventille, Beetham, Sea Lots, Cocorite, and the interior of Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain

In response to the advisory, the UNC said the embassy was warning against going to areas won by the PNM in parliamentary elections. The embassy responded, accusing the UNC of attempting to politicise its statement.

In a subsequent release sent by the Office of the Prime Minister, Dr Rowley said the advisory was also issued by the US State Department to over 130 countries.

Rowley disagreed with some statements in the advisory, particularly the “terrorism” statement.

“(Terrorism) is not a specific feature of any current threat within our shores,” he said.

“We would expect that the United States, which is not unfamiliar with the face of home-grown terrorism, would reconsider the association of such a term with Trinidad and Tobago as it certainly does not accurately reflect the local realities.”

Areas with higher trends in crime were first identified in 2011, during a state of emergency issued by the then UNC government.

Aside from Laventille, Beetham, Sea Lots and Cocorite, other areas identified as hotspots were Woodbrook, Charlieville, Edinburgh/Longdonville, Enterprise North, Enterprise South, Diamond Vale and Morne Coco/Alyce Glen.

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