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‘We can’t invade Venezuela’

By MIRANDA LA ROSE Saturday, August 9 2014

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GREETINGS: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar greets ASJA president Yacoob Ali during a dinner on Thursday in honour of the Muslim community at the...
GREETINGS: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar greets ASJA president Yacoob Ali during a dinner on Thursday in honour of the Muslim community at the...

PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has said Government will continue to do its best to deal with the continued detainment of five Trini Muslims but said TT cannot invade Venezuela to obtain the freedom of the detainees.

“There are those who believe that we can invade Venezuela to release our citizens. It does not happen in that manner,” Persad-Bissessar told the audience at a dinner she hosted on Thursday for the Muslim community at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.

However the attorney representing families of the detainees Nafeesa Mohammed told Newsday yesterday the Prime Minister’s response, “is the same bureaucratic response we have been getting”, adding, “a lot more could be done at a higher level of diplomacy.”

Persad-Bissessar’s comment was in response to a call during the dinner by president of the Anjuman Sunat Ul Jamaat Association (ASJA) Yacoob Ali for Government to do more to have the men released.

Noting it was the first public comment Persad-Bisssessar has made since the men were detained, Mohammed said, “we are glad she made it because lawyers representing the men in Venezuela have been seeking Government’s position on the matter.”

In her response to Ali, Persad-Bissessar said contrary to the views of some, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Security have worked tirelessly, “to do the best we can for our citizens detained in Venezuela.”

She said in the same way TT will detain nationals of Venezuela on matters of threats to national security and follow procedures to determine the outcome, so to must TT follow similar procedures with Venezuela.

Where there are national security matters involved, she said it will not be appropriate for Government to act outside the bounds of conventions. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier this week announced that lawyers for the detainees confirmed the hearing, originally deferred from June 30, was now adjourned to August 18.

The five Muslims reportedly went to Venezuela seeking visas for the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. The Venezuelan authorities claim the men were engaged in activities that threatened that country’s national security.

Addressing concerns of nationals who have to travel to Venezuela to obtain visas for Saudi Arabia, Persad-Bissessar assured that Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran was currently engaging his Saudi Arabian counterpart with a view to establish honorary consuls in the respective countries.

TT was also lobbying, she said, for an increase in the quota of Trinis to be allowed to take part in the annual pilgrimage. Responding to the issue of the plight of the children of Gaza, Persad- Bissessar said TT does not close its eyes and ears to the plight of children around the world and especially in the Middle East.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she noted, has issued a statement on the matter calling on the UN Security Council to act decisively and with alacrity to stem any further deterioration of the humanitarian situation and to restore calm in the Gaza.

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