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Radhikar Ramoutar

A pensioner from Arima, who has been stranded in Canada for almost a year, has threatened to sue the State over the Ministry of National Security’s ongoing exemption policy for persons seeking to enter the country.

In a pre-action protocol letter sent to National Security Minister Stuart Young and Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh, on Monday, lawyers representing Radhikar Ramoutar claimed that the policy, which has been in place since borders were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic last March, is unlawful and unconstitutional.

“Firstly, with respect to the Public Health Ordinance, while we accept Section 105 gives you wide power to combat COVID-19, we contend that the closure of ports of entry is not such a power,” Ramoutar’s lawyer Rhea Khan said.

She also contended that the policy breached the provisions of the Immigration Act, which gives citizens the right to be admitted into the country.

“We will contend that you cannot lawfully use regulations, which is subsidiary legislation created by the executive, to amend, undermine or alter substantive benefits conferred to and/or enjoyed by our client and other citizens by primary legislation and/or the Constitution,” she said.

“We contend that the use of these regulations, without parliamentary scrutiny, oversight, and approval, to limit the fundamental rights and freedoms of our society is directly repugnant to our country’s constitutional norms and values,” she added.

According to the letter, the 74-year-old went to Canada in February, last year, to console her daughter, whose husband had recently passed away.

Her lawyers claimed that she planned to only stay two weeks and only carried enough medication and money to last that period.

She claimed that Ramoutar sought an exemption from Young in July, last year, but did not receive a favourable response. They contended that their client’s health began to decline because of her situation and she had to expend $7,000 Canadian dollars in expenses.

“On one such occasion, due to the stress and anguish of her situation, directly attributable to your unlawful decision, she underwent hospitalization because of dangerously elevated blood pressure,” Khan said, as she noted that her client’s pension benefits were discontinued or suspended as she was unable to present herself to local officials.

Khan also noted that granting her client an exemption based on the legal letter would not resolve her predicament.

“She will not be able to charter a flight through any particular airline to bring her home even if “an exemption” is provided by you,” Khan said.

Young and his ministry was given until midday on Friday to respond to the letter before the lawsuit is filed. A response had not been received, up to late yesterday.

Ramoutar is also being represented by Dinesh Rambally, Kiel Taklalsingh, and Stefan Ramkissoon.