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Ramadhar: Immigration impasse about law and order

Sunday, July 13 2014

The impasse between Govern-ment and the Public Services Association (PSA) regarding the continued closure of the Immigration Division’s offices at both Port-of-Spain and San Fernando was yesterday described by Congress of the People (COP) political leader, Prakash Ramadhar as being an issue of law and order and not simply an industrial relations dispute between a trade union and the State.

On Friday, the PSA, led by president Watson Duke, together with an immigration officer, appeared before the Industrial Court after contempt of court proceedings were filed by Labour Minister, Errol Mcleod, who charged that the union and its representative were in violation of an Industrial Court injunction which sought to have protesting workers return to their respective work places.

The matter was adjourned to July 18.

Speaking to reporters during a walkabout at the Chaguanas market yesterday, Ramadhar, asked about the current impasse, described the situation as “very painful” for those citizens who were being made to wait for their travel documents.

“I find it very painful that our citizens have to endure the pains that they do to get something that is a matter of right to them,” Ramadhar said, adding, “and I keep making the point that we have to draw a line between legitimate industrial action and matters that bring pain and suffering to the citizens.”

“The Government has acted in good faith, it has acted in the best way to bring relief to all of the complaints that have been made, which have existed for a long, long period of time and I really hope now, with the matter being before the court, that good sense will prevail and that there is a return to work as soon as possible,” he said.

“But there is a bigger issue here, we can’t have any one or any group of persons who would throw to the wind, the respect for courts, where an injunction has been issued, so it is really about the rule of law and a step, in their minds, to anarchy,” Ramadhar said.

“This Government stands firm in the belief that the rule of law must be upheld for the security and well-being of all of the society,” he added.

Ramadhar also cautioned that both foreign and local investors may be deterred from investing in Trinidad and Tobago because of the uncertainty of the industrial climate.

“Messages that are being sent could be very hazardous to the well-being of persons who wish to invest in this nation, even local investment and foreign investment, they always look at your labour relations and how things are conducted here and I want to say in the longer term, what might be short-term gains in the minds of few would bring long-term pain,” he said.

“So I ask all citizens to have a sense of history and a sense of a longer view of things. Now is our time, the economy is doing far better than what it was in 2010 and therefore a rising tide would lift all ships but we can’t have citizens being made to pay the price,” he added. Asked about the purpose of his walkabout, Ramadhar said walkabouts had been implemented by COP since 2008 and was a method of reconnecting with the population and listening to their concerns.

Regarding the Chaguanas market, he said about $20million had been approved by Cabinet for a refurbishment of the facility.

“The last visit we had here two months back, we had complaints of terrible leakage and so together with the MP for the area, Ramona Ramdial, and the Minister of Local Government and their efforts that they made to get funds to refurbish the market, which I am pleased to announce have been approved, so we are here to reconnect and for those who had the concerns to let them know their complaints have not fallen on deaf ears,” he said.

Ramadhar said the funds would “deal with the development of the market” such as repairs to the leaking roofs, ventilation and overall improvement.

Ramadhar also remembered Ray Kublalsingh, whose body was discovered a few miles from his Claxton Bay home on Friday, as an “elder friend” who would have participated in yesterday’s walkabout.

“I was at the wake last night and indeed Ray would have been with us today, he has been with us throughout the length and breath of this country and I will miss him very very dearly,” he said, adding, “he was like an elder friend and I would almost say like a father figure to me, I having lost my dad almost three weeks ago.”

“His work will continue, he stood for what is right in the nation, he was very forceful and strong in his position and we will honour that.

“We will always miss him,” he added. Ramadhar also touched briefly on the crime situation saying the use of “human intelligence and electronic intelligence” was necessary were the police service to make inroads against lawbreakers.

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