Since 2018 I have been urging the Rowley led PNM Government to address the humanitarian disaster unfolding on our shores with regard to Venezuelan migrants illegally entering our borders. The Rowley-led Government not only refused to seriously address this grave issue, they flat out denied it was occurring. In August of 2018 Former Minister of Energy, the now-deceased Franklin Khan, even went so far as to tell reporters that he “wasn’t aware of any Humanitarian crisis” with regard to Venezuela.
In 2020, when the Rowley-led Government allowed sanctioned Venezuelan officials into the country, while our borders were shut to nationals, the country was told this was due to discussions over a mutual Covid and refugee policy. However, over a year later no details of such a policy ever emerged.
The recent shooting of a migrant vessel near our borders involving the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard in which an infant tragically died is an extremely serious event that warrants a comprehensive investigation. However, now faced with the spectre of international condemnation, Keith Rowley is scrambling for cover by desperately attempting to suggest this tragedy is a one-off accident.
Unsurprisingly, Rowley resorted once again to blaming me for raising this matter, accusing me of disrespecting our Coast Guard.
The only person who continues to disrespect our Coast Guard, as well as the nation, is Keith Rowley. This incident is far from a one-off accident as Rowley is pathetically attempting to claim to cover his tracks.
The tragic killing of this infant is the culmination of Rowley’s repeated failure to address the massive humanitarian crisis unfolding in Venezuela and institute proper policies with regard to migrants and border security.
I wish to remind Keith Rowley that it was his government that shamelessly deported 16 children including a four-month-old infant, by placing them on pirogues at Cedros and telling them to make their way across the treacherous waters of the Gulf of Paria to Venezuela.
In 2019, a migrant vessel carrying over 30 persons capsized in the Gulf of Paria with only nine survivors being found.
This incident was never acknowledged by the Rowley regime, and no attempts were made to prevent it from happening again.
Despite the cosy relationship which exists between Keith Rowley and Nicolas Maduro, no serious attempts have been made by Keith Rowley to hold Venezuelan authorities responsible for preventing illegal border crossings.
Indeed Rowley’s failure to implement a proper migrant and border policy appears predicated on appeasing the Narco-trafficking regime of Nicolas Maduro.
Today our nation faces immense embarrassment and scrutiny from news media and international agencies over this horrific death of a migrant baby.
The headlines range from: “Infant baby killed after coast guard opens fire on boat carrying Venezuelan Migrants” (UK Guardian) to “Venezuelan baby killed in mother’s arms as Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard fires at migrant boat” (Washington Post).
These are not the words of Kamla Persad-Bissessar or the UNC. These are the words of the international community who are in horror over such an atrocity.
Being the spineless leader he is, Keith Rowley is once again running from responsibility and blaming everyone but himself.
A responsible government would immediately fire National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, but in Rowley’s failed state of lawlessness, his option is to ‘blame Kamla’.
If the lives of our own citizens which are being lost to crime day after day in Trinidad and Tobago do not matter to Keith Rowley, perhaps it is expecting too much from this PNM government to think infants being killed on our borders matter.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Leader of the Opposition
9th February 2022