Trinidad opposition leader concerned about registering Venezuelans

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bisessar speaks to the media during the Kiddies Carnival in Penal hosted by the Siparia Women’s Association.

(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.”

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