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T&T’s Keith Rowley tells CARICOM: Establish a visitor protocol

Featured T&T Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley T&T Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, Oct. 27, 2014 - Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley says the absence of a CARICOM protocol on visitors to the region in the face of the Ebola threat was “worrisome”.

A story in today’s Trinidad Express newspaper quotes Dr. Rowley as saying “I thought the first thing we would have done was to make this a CARICOM issue rather than having a situation where one country gets up and says, ‘banning’ while another says, ‘okay you all free to pass through’. We have CARICOM, let’s use it”, he said.

The T&T Opposition leader questioned what did a Trinidad and Tobago ban mean if there are other areas in CARICOM where there was freedom of movement with the outside world and freedom of movement with Trinidad and Tobago.

“How effective is such a ban?” he asked. “In terms of the movement of people and trade, CARICOM is an open market, therefore banning in one quarter without a CARICOM protocol does not necessarily make the borders of any of the countries (in CARICOM) secure,” he said.

“Suppose someone comes into Trinidad and Tobago from St Kitts, but came to St Kitts via some other area? There are complications to this thing which is why we needed a CARICOM discussion and a CARICOM position which would have applied to all the member countries,” Rowley said.

Noting that Trinidad and Tobago was a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and subscribed to WHO protocols and dictates, Rowley questions: “When the World Health Organisation says Nigeria is clear of Ebola and we say we are banning them, on what basis do you do so?

Noting there was currently a strong lobby in the US for a “widespread ban” of all African countries, Rowley said if the Republicans are victorious in the Congressional Elections in November, this could very well become the policy of the US. It could mean that any country which the US feels has an incident or has been exposed to Ebola, could be faced with a ban.

Stating that African countries were being banned “by proxy”, Rowley pointed to what was happening with the refinery at Petrotrin which trades in oil with West Africa. The OWTU is refusing to berth a tanker, which originated from either Gabon or Ghana, because it is not confident about the protocols in place to protect its workers from the threat of Ebola. He said Trinidad and Tobago was a trading nation and ships came here from other ports.

Rowley said there has to be more emphasis on the management of the threat, and on proper protocols to identify the threat and to respond to it medically, rather than “taking the easy way out” and taking solace in a ban, thinking that Ebola cannot come here.

Rowley said there were Trinidadians living in West Africa and there were also illegal African immigrants here.

“So anybody enters Trinidad and Tobago, with Ebola, just like how ChikV came here...and if the Republicans in the US place a ban on us, we would find our industries shut down because we cannot trade with US,” he said.

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