I note with extreme concern the latest, pathetic, appalling, dangerous meltdown of Prime Minister Keith Rowley, where, in a Facebook post on the tragic killing of a Venezuelan baby by the T&T Coastguard, he chose to once more engage in lies and distraction to cover up his Government’s ineptitude and utter destructive mismanagement of our country.
The horrific killing of a baby Yaelvis Santoyo Sarabia has resulted in tremendous international outrage, causing considerable disrepute and embarrassment to our country. Globally, media headlines range from:
“Infant baby killed after coast guard opens fire on a 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). In the UK Guardian, Al Jazeera, The Washington Post, the Caracas Chronicles and elsewhere, Trinidad and Tobago is portrayed as a brutish, brutal regime under Keith Rowley.
The Venezuelan Government, headed by Rowley’s infamous dancing partner and close friend, Nicolas Maduro, has called for the Trinidad and Tobago Government to launch an “exhaustive investigation” into this atrocious incident.
A group of United Nations agencies, (the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the UN human rights office (OHCHR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), have issued a joint statement essentially condemning the incident:
“No migrant child should ever die, whether traveling with their parents or alone. No mother wants to put the lives of her children at risk on a small ship in the deep sea, unless she has no other option.” (Jean Gough, regional director for UNICEF, Latin America and the Caribbean)
Noting that this shameful incident is compromising our international reputation, at a UNC meeting on Monday night I said:
“Oh God what a heart rendering thing to see our Coast Guard, TTCG firing on a migrant vessel, murdering a baby. We are making international news because of that. I await the explanation, I cannot see you have a vessel with people there— how you could open fire on women and children?
Did anyone raise a weapon against you? Why would you shoot? Was that reasonable force? A young baby is killed by the TTCG. (National Security Minister Hinds) Ethelbert resign now!”
In response, Prime Minister Rowley has chosen to defend the appalling incident in the absence of any thorough investigation, as well as lie, twist my words and make this dastardly tragedy yet another episode of his “Blame Kamla” mad man’s rant.
While this is in keeping with his destructive, dictatorial track record of interfering with the independent national security organizations of our country, it remains dangerous and intolerable.
It is passing strange that he did not respond in kind to President Maduro, whose Government made similar observations, nor did he see it fit to issue a comprehensive, sane response to the United Nation’s concerns, as any real, patriotic leader would do in the best interest of preserving good foreign relations with our international allies.
Indeed, his unhinged ranting seem to suggest that he is endorsing the killing of innocent babies, at the expense of our country’s democracy and international reputation.
And it is not the first time that such incidents have occurred. In 2019 a migrant vessel containing over 30 persons capsized in the Gulf of Paria with only nine survivors being found.
This incident was never acknowledged by the Rowley regime, which made no attempts to prevent it from happening again. Rowley’s government also shamelessly deported 16 children including a four-month-old infant, by placing them on pirogues at Cedros and telling them to make their way to Venezuela.
Indeed, since 2018, I have been urging the Rowley Government to treat with this critical issue of Venezuelan migrants illegally entering our borders.
This tragic killing of the baby is therefore the culmination of Rowley’s blatant refusal to address the massive humanitarian crisis unfolding in Venezuela and institute proper policies with regards to migrants and border security.
I therefore reiterate my call for Rowley to urgently launch a comprehensive inquiry into this tragic and untenable incident.
The findings must then be laid in the Parliament, so that the national and international publics can determine what really took place, which is in keeping with normal protocol in incidents like these.
This is crucial to ensure that the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago do not suffer any potential international fallout over this tragic incident.
As for Rowley’s latest personal attacks on me, Trinidad and Tobago has long seen through his cowardly bullying, wanton lies, blame games, vulgarity, dictatorship, cruelty, inhumanity and utter shamelessness. I dismiss him— and his pack of nasty lies— as useless, deranged and vile.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Leader of the Opposition
9th February 2022