A mother of eight from east Port-of-Spain, who was left stranded abroad for almost six months on her first trip outside of Trinidad and Tobago, last year, will have to wait a while longer before she challenges the dismissal of her lawsuit over the continued closure of the country’s borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delivering an oral ruling, yesterday morning, Appellate Judges Nolan Bereaux and Mira Dean-Armorer rejected Takeisha Clairmont’s procedural appeal over the dismissal of the case.
Justice Bereaux, who delivered the decision, explained that Clairmont had to pursue a substantive appeal as opposed to an urgent procedural appeal. He noted that High Court Judge Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell’s dealt with Clairmont’s case in a rolled-up hearing, in which she determined whether Clairmont should be granted leave to pursue it and the substantive issues raised by her, simultaneously. Bereaux stated that procedural appeals were only allowed when judges make preliminary decisions but do not consider the substantive issues.
According to the court filings, Clairmont’s legal team was claiming that the Government was required to amend the country’s immigration laws in order to effect the change as opposed to using the Public Health Regulations, which are executed without Parliamentary scrutiny. They claimed that the policy breached Clairmont’s constitutional rights to liberty, protection of the law, freedom of movement, and freedom from arbitrary detention, imprisonment or exile. In addition to compensation for Clairmont’s pain and suffering, they were also seeking an order declaring the regulations, which deal specifically with the closure of the borders, null and void.
In her judgement, delivered in March, Justice Donaldson-Honeywell refused Clairmont leave to pursue the case due to Clairmont’s delay in filing it. Donaldson-Honeywell still considered the substantive issues raised by Clairmont but dismissed them as she ruled that regulations were in conformity with the Constitution, the Immigration Act and the Public Health Ordinance, which allows for regulations to address public health threats.
In an affidavit attached to the case, which was obtained by Guardian Media, Clairmont sought to recount the harrowing details of her experience. Clairmont claimed that in January, last year, her brother, who lives in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) bought a ticket for her to come to help take care of him after he underwent kidney surgery. Clairmont attempted to get a return flight before the closure of the borders but was unsuccessful. Faced with the prospect of being separated from her family for an inordinate period, Clairmont, who was three and a half months’ pregnant suffered a miscarriage in the airport toilet. She was hospitalised and her brother was forced to pay over US$2,000 in medical bills.
Clairmont was then forced to stay with her brother and his wife while frequently making requests to the Ministry of National Security to facilitate her repatriation.
Clairmont claimed that she only received a favourable response in late August after her plight was first highlighted by Guardian Media’s CNC3 News and then other media companies. As Clairmont could not afford to charter a flight to Barbados, fellow stranded citizens, who communicated with her via social media, started a GoFundMe account in order to raise the $33,000 that was required.
Clairmont claimed that when she reached Barbados she had to highlight her plight on social media and contact former national security minister Stuart Young in order to be placed on a repatriation flight instead of having to secure another charter.
When she arrived, Clairmont was quarantined at the Home of Football in Couva for almost a week before she was released.
The part-time Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) worker from East Dry River claimed that the situation did not only affect her emotionally but financially as her husband had to leave his job as a security guard in order to care for their children in her absence.
She also claimed that the furniture she had purchased for her home on hire purchase had been repossessed.
Clairmont is being represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Renuka Rambhajan, Che Dindial, Alana Rambaran, and Ganesh Saroop. Reginald Armour, SC, Vanessa Gopaul, Raphael Ajodhia, Savitri Maharaj and Kadine Matthew represented the AG’s Office.