The Opposition is examining the legal basis on which National Security Minister Stuart Young debarred citizens from returning to T&T when he shut the borders on Sunday.
In a media conference at his Oropouche East Constituency office yesterday, Dr Roodal Moonilal said the UNC plans to go to court to get the Government to order a “Flight of Mercy” to return 33 of 35 nationals now stranded in Barbados. He said two of the 35 had landing documents for the United States and are now in Florida.
He said on Tuesday, he received calls and messages from members of the group seeking his assistance in getting home. He said Government has created a narrative that these people were irresponsible by taking a vacation cruise, causing citizens to develop animosity towards the group. However, he said the Government should accept blame as it was Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh who told the population earlier this year not to panic.
“The Government said we are prepared, there is no need to panic. Carnival is on and Caribbean Airlines announced with fanfare, 29,000 people were arriving on CAL alone for Carnival. These persons left on Carnival Tuesday, while this country and its’ Government was playing mas.
“They did not act recklessly in terms of leaving because the Government told this country that if it was ok for 30,000 people to come here, it was ok to go on vacation elsewhere.”
Moonilal said the group, which includes retirees, left T&T on Carnival Tuesday for a vacation. On February 27 they boarded a flight from London to Dubai and on March 2 joined a cruise to South Africa.
Young announced that Government was closings T&T’s borders to non-nationals and nationals at midnight Sunday on Saturday, giving them 34 hours to return home.Moonilal said this announcement was not for citizens at home but for those abroad who were not watching the media conference and were only informed by relatives later on. He said that on hearing the news, the vacationers left the cruise ship in Cape Town, South Africa and went to the airport. They went from Cape Town to Dubai on Sunday but could not get a flight to London for 35 people on the same day. On Monday, British Airways told them T&T was not accepting flights and nationals. They then booked another flight to Barbados, hoping to get to T&T. However, they were again told they could not return to T&T. It was here the Barbadian government intervened and the vacationers were housed in a hotel and checked by medics.
Showing flight information, Moonilal said the same flight that could not bring the nationals to T&T, landed at the Piarco International Airport to retrieve British nationals. Although there was no testing for COVID-19 on the cruise, Moonilal said no one exhibited symptoms of the virus. He said it was ironic that the Government could charter a plane to pick up passengers in Martinique, who had exposure to the virus and quarantined them but could not do the same for others who presented no symptoms. He said these citizens could be quarantined on returning home.He said he supports the closure of the borders but rejects the decision to block citizens from returning home.
Meanwhile, UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar also penned a letter to Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley thanking the Bajan government and people for helping the T&T nationals there.