(Trinidad Guardian) Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is extremely concerned about the involvement of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) in the registration of Venezuelans, especially with two upcoming elections and the country’s history of vote rigging. She commented yesterday against reports that a policy is currently being prepared for review by Cabinet to allow Venezuelans, whether here legally or illegally, to be registered to work in T&T for up to one year.
Persad-Bissessar, who attended the Siparia Women’s Association’s annual Children’s Carnival in Penal, said: “In refugee policy and with United Nations there are certain protocols to be followed but I became extremely disturbed when I heard Minister Moses, in answering a question in the Parliament, saying that the EBC would be involved in helping to prepare some kind of registration card.
“I totally object to the EBC having any part to play in registering any refugees or anyone seeking asylum. To me, that is a red flag and it is a most frightening development given that now that we have two elections that will be taking place.”
The Opposition Leader said the law does not allow for the EBC to register Venezuelans at this time.
“When my team met with the EBC we raised this issue and they made the point very clearly that the law as it stands does not allow them to register any persons coming out of a nation like Venezuela. They can register Commonwealth citizens but they would have had to be here two years prior, so that means no new registration can take place between now and the next elections due,” she said.
“We have a history of voter rigging in this country and therefore we have to be extremely alert. Our team will be visiting EBC on a regular basis and we will be raising this issue and certainly if we have to go to court to stop such registrations by the EBC of Venezuelan refugees we will go to court as well.”
Contacted for comment, National Security Minister Stuart Young said: “At no point in time has the Government indicated that its proposed registration of Venezuelans will involve the EBC. As usual, this is a very irresponsible statement made by the opposition.”
“What has been said is that the govennment in a first phase will call on all Venezuelans here to be registered so we have all data as it relates to those nationals in Trinidad and Tobago and know who exactly we are dealing with and what the numbers are.”
Persad-Bissessar, who is supporting Venezuela’s self-declared interim president Juan Guaido, said she is hoping war does not break out in the troubled South American nation.
Commenting on yesterday’s talks between US Vice President Mike Pence, Guaido and leaders of the Lima Group, she said: “I know that several countries, in fact, the majority of the western nations in the western hemisphere, are in support of free, fair elections in Venezuela and in support of the interim president Juan Guaido.
“We live and wait in hope that there should be no war on our doorsteps because any war will impact very badly on us here in Caricom. So whatever efforts are being made, we wish them good luck and offer our prayers for a good outcome.”
She said there is a clear humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and it is not sufficient to pretend nothing is happening.
“So while we understand each nation is a sovereign nation, you cannot stand by and allow the poverty that is taking place and the brutality and the human rights abuses and so on. If the world had turned a blind eye on what was happening in South Africa you know what would have happened? Mandela would still be in jail and apartheid would still be reigning and this is what is happening in terms of Venezuela.”