By Sue-Ann Wayow
POLICE Commissioner Erla Christopher is being called upon to disclose if police are investigating claims of any parliamentarian involved in human trafficking.
The call comes from Opposition Member of Parliament for Oropouche East Dr Roodal Moonilal.
He is also calling on the United States authorities to explain the meaning of “senior Government” officials involved in the trafficking of humans in their Trafficking in Persons Report, July 2022.
Dr Moonilal was speaking at an Opposition media briefing in Port of Spain on Sunday.
He said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s allegation that parliamentary officials involved were on the Opposite bench was “the biggest, most abominable ever made outside of Emailgate.”
Dr Moonilal questioned the Prime Minister’s knowledge of the Opposition MPs being involved.
“How you know that? The police told you?” he asked.
Dr Moonilal said, “Today I call on Erla Harewood- Christopher to indicate to the country whether there is any ongoing investigation that involves members of Parliament whether in Government or Opposition anyone dealing with human trafficking. Is there any ongoing investigation and I put it to you, there is none, absolutely none.”
To Dr Rowley he said, “That is hogwash. Because you cannot explain why your Government has not laid one report in the Parliament. You cannot explain why you do not provide resources to the Counter trafficking unit. You cannot explain what you have done to arrest, prosecute and even convict persons involved in human trafficking.”
Dr Moonilal said that Opposition MPs Rodney Charles and Dinesh Rambally had repeatedly asked about the matter of human trafficking on several forums adding that it was the People’s Partnership Government that brought “history-making legislation” to deal with the serious criminal issue.
Holding up a local report in his hand he also said, “The last report done on trafficking in persons situation report for parliament is a report I have in my hand, 2015? There is no report from 2015 to 2022 dealing with human trafficking.”
The US report states, “The Government of Trinidad and Tobago does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included increasing investigations and prosecutions, identifying more victims, and expanding training to a broader range of stakeholders.
“However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity. The government has never convicted a trafficker under its 2011 anti-trafficking law. Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action, and the government did not take action against senior government officials alleged in 2020 to be involved in human trafficking.
“Victim identification and services remained weak, and the government did not formally adopt the National Action Plan (NAP) for 2021-2023. Therefore, Trinidad and Tobago remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.”
Dr Moonilal also said he was not aware of any investigation relating to former government minister Dr Devant Maharaj.
Maharaj, former Transport Minister under the People’s Partnership government had claimed that there was a probe into allegations against former Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) board member, who is now an Opposition MP.