Dr Keith Rowley. Photo/T&T Parliament
By Sue-Ann Wayow
PRIME Minister Dr Keith Rowley has apologised for statements made concerning Venezuelan migrants and the death of Ashanti Riley on Tuesday.
Dr Rowley in a Facebook post referred to agents of Organisation of American States (OAS), the Opposition and others as “imps” and “liars.”
He was speaking about the tragic drowning of more than 20 Venezuelans over the past few days saying that “our grief comes in double doses.”
The post was also sent as a press release from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
Dr Rowley subsequently published on the OPM’s page, “The previous post should have been written as two separate statements and was intended for publication on the Prime Minister’s personal social media account.
“I regret and apologise to all for the distress caused by the post. Prime Minister Dr the Hon Keith Rowley.”
His comments were immediately condemned by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar who also posted on Facebook calling Rowley’s statements “shameful.”
Dr Rowley said, “These imps have now been pushing a narrative that these illegals and their criminal traffickers reached Trinidad but our authorities here turned them back and that is why they drowned in waters off the coast of Venezuela at Guiria. This is their lie! Our Coast Guard never saw or interacted with these traffickers and their cargo. These liars who operate in Venezuela and in Trinidad and Tobago now know that they are now to be held criminally accountable, not only for encouraging Venezuelans to break the law in trying to penetrate our borders but actually, physically arranging their dangerous transport and illegal reception in Trinidad.”
The Prime Minister said the law will prevail and advised citizens and the international press and agencies to cease from encouraging and exposing ordinary Venezuelans to risk their lives in the waters between the two nations.
Although, the journey might be short to some, it was very perilous and lives should not be risked, Rowley said.
He said his government receives no help from any agency to look after the 16,000 registered plus migrants and many are relatively recent arrivals who entered or were trafficked to the country illegally.
“Regardless of the political or economic affairs in Venezuela, or any other territory, all persons interacting with Trinidad and Tobago must do so under an understanding that we all do so in strict accordance with the laws of Trinidad and Tobago,” Dr Rowley said.
Persad-Bissessar posted, “Earlier today, the Office of the Prime Minister released an unimaginably shameful statements on its Facebook page. Invoking the recent horrific murder of teenager Ashanti Riley, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley attempted to blame both Organisation of the American States (OAS) and the Opposition UNC for the tragic death of migrants while attempting to reach our shores.”
She said, “Keith Rowley knows he is guilty of failing to craft a proper refugee policy, as well as in securing our borders. Judging by his nonsensical social media post, which has since been deleted, he is clearly attempting to mount an insanity plea in his defence.”
She called for a full investigation into the drownings, the illegal crossings, and the links to criminal human trafficking.
“Instead of a sane immigration and border security policy, Keith Rowley chose instead to simply spew hate, malice, confusion, and has exposed his fragile mental state. He is clearly incapable of displaying leadership on this serious issue,” Persad-Bissessar said.
She also said it was bizarre that Dr Rowley continued to attack the OAS, an international organisation that has long been a key ally to Trinidad and Tobago.