After much criticism of his unavailability to answer questions from the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs over the large number of Cubans and Haitians who have overstayed here, Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix has agreed to appear before the body on Thursday.
“Felix has written that he will be there on Thurs-day 10 am,” Committee Chairman Gail Teixeira told this newspaper yesterday.
She is elated that questions could possibly be answered that would put a rest to the issue which she believes involves human trafficking.
Thursday would make the fourth time that Felix has promised to appear before the committee.
Teixeira, the PPP/C Chief Whip, had explained that since the Committee’s meeting on June 13th, where it was decided that Felix should be summoned to answer questions on the large amounts of visitors overstaying their time here, especially Cubans and Haitians, and the risk of human trafficking, July 25th was the third time that the meeting had had to be cancelled.
She said that the Committee had written to Felix proposing that the meeting be held on July 4th or any other date convenient to him. He agreed to the July 4th meeting but later cancelled. July 11th was selected but that was also cancelled and the meeting could not be held the following Wednesday, July 18th, as it was the date of the funeral for a parliamentary staffer. July 25th was then chosen and the Committee Chairman said that she had even reminded Felix during a sitting of the National Assembly of it.
On his cancellation of that appearance citing government business, she lamented that with a number of national issues to discuss it seemed to her that government representatives on the Foreign Affairs Committee did not take the matters seriously.
“It is not just Felix but no government person is available either. This Committee should be very important but it seems no one thinks so. The Committee on Natural Resources has their meetings and they get full cooperation with us even seeing Exxon going before them, their Minister is always going to them and yet here we are,” she said.
“Foreign Service … has critical issues to discuss about this country and I don’t know what to say,” she added.
During discussions at the committee’s meeting on June 13th, the “alarming” statistics on the number of Cubans and Haitians overstaying their time in Guyana and who cannot be accounted for, was brought up and a decision was taken by members to summon Felix and Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge, to discuss possible human trafficking.
“When you have a large number of people that cannot be found then something is definitely wrong…we have to find out what is really going on,” Teixeira had said during discussions of the findings.
“It’s not a question of who is trickling in. The issue is not who is coming and going; it’s the issue of the numbers remaining and where you can’t find them, you can’t see them…This is trafficking, this is trafficking,” she added.
She had informed that at a sitting of the Foreign Affairs committee in February of this year questions were raised on the number of Haitians coming into the country but not leaving and a request for statistics on the entry numbers was made of Felix.
On May 23rd Felix wrote to the Clerk of the National Assembly and provided statistics of not only Haitians but of the eight main groups of foreign nationals with the largest arrival and departure figures for the past five years and the first quarter of this year.
Teixeira proposed to the committee that the Ministers of Citizenship and Foreign Affairs be called to answer questions on the data provided and more specifically what government was doing to address human trafficking concerns and what plans are in place to cater for humanitarian efforts for those groups needing assistance.