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Rowley bouffs UN

Friday, April 27, 2018
Unfounded repatriation claims taint T&T’s image
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, right, exits the room following yesterday’s Post-Cabinet press briefing at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s. At right is Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young. PICTURE ABRAHAM DIAZ

An angry Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday said he intends to write the United Nations (UN) to complain about this country’s local UN representative’s comments about the recent repatriation of 82 Venezuelans.

The repatriation process, which saw a Venezuelan military aircraft landing at the Piarco International Airport to take the nationals back to their homeland, drew criticism from UN Resident Coordinator Richard Blewitt. T&T also faced an outcry and heavy criticism for the repatriation.

But at yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing art the Diplomatic Centre, Rowley said he was very satisfied how Government handled the repatriation. He said T&T was governed by laws, while we are a generous and caring people “and we demonstrated that over and over again” by opening our doors to Venezuela.

Addressing Blewitt’s comments directly, Rowley said he would not allow anyone to paint a different story of our country.

“We will not allow, without protest, public servants from any international agency to misrepresent our circumstances to the world and stay in Trinidad and Tobago. Against that background, I as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago will, under my hand, write a complaint to the United Nations at its headquarters about the conduct of persons who take it upon themselves to speak about Trinidad and Tobago.”

The PM said he intended to defend T&T’s reputation, hence the reason why he would stand his ground on the issue. As a member of the UN, Rowley said T&T has been very careful and responsible in carrying out its affairs. But he said the image painted was that T&T behaved in a unbecoming manner, which was the furthest from the truth.

“If officers of the United Nations are to talk about Trinidad and Tobago, especially those who are in Trinidad and Tobago and know our circumstances, then the least we can expect from them is to stay with the facts.”

He also said he would not allow UN representatives to make T&T into a refugee camp, noting T&T’s relationship with Venezuela was based on mutual friendship. Rowley said he had not spoken to Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro on the heated issue.

As Venezuela faces an economic crisis, Rowley said there are arrangements in place to allow their nationals to come here to obtain food and medical supplies, following which they would leave. However, he said as the crisis worsened there, there was now a proliferation of Venezuelans entering our shores illegally.

He said many Venezuelans had come through the back door and continued to stay illegally. Rowley said people who knew of illegal Venezuelans exploited them for cheap labour, prostitution and all manner of evil. He said there were also those who came with guns and ammunition.

At one point, Rowley said T&T had been accused of being “too caring” by allowing Venezuelans into our shores.

“Let me draw to the attention of those who have a lot to say, the people who were in those detention centres were not put there because they were Venezuelans. They were put there because they ran afoul of the laws of T&T. And it hurts me when people in this country appoint themselves spokespersons for our country that have nothing good to say about this place and seek to put us in the worst possible light where our interest is not defended.”

Promising to guard the country zealously, Rowley said they have been handling the situation carefully because if Government didn’t “it could create serious problems for us. There are people who want us to join them in invading Venezuela, we are not doing that.”

He added that economic migrants do not “easily qualify” for refugee status.

As for Amnesty International’s Erika Guevara Rosas, who also criticised the way in which the Venezuela nationals were repatriated, Rowley said that was better left unsaid.


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