Prakash Ramadhar

St Augustine MP Prakash Ramadhar has pushed back at Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley saying that the government has to stop demonising nationals seeking exemptions to return home and move faster in repatriating them.

Without identifying anyone, in particular, the Prime Minister at his press conference on Saturday accused “an Opposition MP with legal training” of what he called “touting” nationals who are stranded abroad and telling them that their constitutional rights are being violated.

Rowley said, “There is one particular Member of Parliament who has legal training of some sort and jumps out here publicly, calling for all kinds of cooperation with the government but behind your back, he is writing and seeking out people abroad. Touting, that is what it is called, and telling people that the government is violating their constitutional rights and he can get them into the country because a denial of entry is a breach of their constitutional rights.”

In an interview with Guardian Media yesterday, Ramadhar, an attorney who represented the 33 nationals who came from Barbados, denied he was touting nationals aboard. He had no idea who the Prime Minister was referring to and called on him to reveal the identity of the MP.

“However,” he added, “I am the only Member of Parliament that I know publicly who have been fighting the cause and advocating for the return of our citizens.”

He said “many dozens” nationals have been reaching out to him for assistance from across the world every day through Whatsapp, emails, and other forms of communication and not the other way around.

“And I do give them assistance by telling them how to make their applications to the minister of national security and whatever other issues they may require and that is all I have done to assist our brothers and sisters to attempt to come home.

“So it is very easy for people to make jabs and create insinuations. I have put forward a proposal publicly about the need to create a list, a priority list, a doable list and to better facilitate the efficient return of our citizens and this bogey they keep raising, this fear factor, this demonising of our citizens that if they come in they will bring COVID, I mean really it is either we have faith and trust in the protocols put down by our Chief Medical Officer and the Ministry of Health to mitigate the dangers of that and that we cannot just demonise people, demonise our citizens and say that they should be kept out or limit their numbers so that only a few permitted in.”

He said many nationals are facing personal and medical difficulties, including a man who is afflicted with an aggressive form of cancer and cannot afford medical care in London, adding that he has to pay £5,000 per treatment.

“He wishes to come home and he has had no response from what he has told me from the government for an exemption for him to return,” Ramadhar said.

Stating that he has always treated the government with respect, he said, “I am not here to make them look bad they do a great job of that on their own.”

However, he felt that the Prime Minister was acting “in a very cold way” to the plight of the nationals.

“Nobody has suggested to open the borders completely to any and everyone. What we are saying is to take a very robust approach in repatriating our citizens and the protocols that are there to apply them.” While he agrees that COVID does not respect anyone’s constitutional rights, he said that does not mean that “you shutdown everything and say that people have no rights at all.”

Ramadhar also made it clear that his services to those nationals have been free of charge.