Venezuelans outside the Queens Park Oval Port of Spain.
Griffith: Police have info on Venezuelans’ voyages to Trinidad
By PRIOR BEHARRY
TRINIDAD– Tensions ran high outside the Queen’s Park Oval last night on the eve of the last day of registration for Venezuelans to be allowed to stay and work in Trinidad and Tobago for one year.
A number of local protesters gathered on the pavement in St. Clair, Port-of-Spain with shouts of “Rowley Must Go” and “Close Our Borders Now!”.Police Commissioner Gary Griffith was present and told the media that it was a very delicate situation as tensions were running high. He said the presence of members of the Guard and Emergency Branch was to ensure “no degree of violence” took place.
Griffith said he was flexible with the local protestors who were on the pavement and very emotional but did not have permission which should have been applied for between 48 hours to 14 days before a planned protest.
He said, “Persons have a right to assemble, they have a right to protest, they have a right to march. However, it must be done within the confines of the law, the reason for that so that those individuals themselves can be protected, it does not cause traffic congestion and other individuals would not be hurt.”Griffith said, “But a request must be made within 48 hours to 14 days to protest. It was not done on this occasion. I went and met with the individuals and it is not a protest where there is planned violence.
He said, “I have spoken to them and I am willing to be very flexible and as it is I can flex the muscles of the police service because they are all breaking the law and did not get the requisite approval. You need to get approval if you want to have any planned protest. So this is basically unlawful assembly. I am monitoring it.”
Griffith said, “I don’t want this to turn into a situation where it can lead to a domino effect. It’s a very delicate situation now. I think we have it under control. I have spoken to them. They are staying on the pavement, they are expressing their concerns and they are not doing anything to harm anyone.” He said he did not want any conflict between Venezuelans and Trinidadians
Trinidadians are angry at what seems a free-for-all as there were reports of boatloads of Venezuelans entering Trinidad illegally being hauled into maxi taxis and taken straight to the registration centers even in their wet clothes.
Environmentalist Mr. Gary Aboud shouted: “Close our borders now.”Commissioner Griffith said he could not put his head on a block that no boats with Venezuelans had entered the country illegally over the last few days.
He said, “I cannot put my head on a block to say that boats did not enter over the last few days. What I can say is that based on the numbers we have seen it obviously was not the perception that many may have, of tens of thousands were landing and it was Normandy invasion on beaches.
“If that was the case you would have seen it here. It is no more than just over 700 registering per day and only a few hundred more may overlap. “Griffith said, “This (registration) process has assisted the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. We gathered intelligence as much as possible. We are getting a lot by speaking to the Venezuelan nationals by registering.
“We are asking them: How they got in here? What boat they came on? The name of the vessel? Where they came in? What’s the name of the individual? How much did they pay? Point of contacts?“And by doing that it is providing us with a lot of information in securing the borders. That becomes phase two at the end of tomorrow’s registration until then our job is to ensure that persons emotions don’t run high.”