Attorney General Faris Al Rawi’s revelation on Thursday that Trinidad and Tobago does not currently have a system for advance information on sex offenders entering T&T is worrisome.
It arose when reporters asked the AG how Kenneth Petty, the husband of Trinidad-born US rapper, Nicki Minaj, was allowed into the country for Carnival.
According to the AG, T&T doesn’t have a visa arrangement with the US and so would not have been able to access such information.
Petty ought not to have been given clearance to enter the country as easily as he did.
He was convicted of first-degree attempted rape in 1995 when he was 16. He served almost four years for that crime but in 2006 he was back in prison for manslaughter.
Court records showed that during his time behind bars he was cited for nine separate violations, and got four months in solitary confinement as punishment.
That a convicted sex offender was also allowed inside the St Jude’s Home for Girls during his visit here, only added insult to injury.
There is an urgent need now for the pursuit of proper treaties to allow better checks of those coming here, not only from the US but from every other country as well.
The system worked well in April last year when Jamaican dancehall artiste, Buju Banton needed special permission from Minister of National Security, Stuart Young to enter the country. Banton had just finished serving a jail term in the US for conspiracy to traffic drugs.
Young’s position was clear, “Buju Banton falls foul of our immigration laws in Trinidad and Tobago. I have asked that it be conveyed to the organisers of the concert that they need to make an application to the minister.”
Given that the Immigration laws were not capable of raising a red flag on Petty's crimes, we have more work to do.
We need mechanisms to ensure that this does not happen again.
The AG offered some hope, however, saying that as Government works to replace Customs and Immigration forms with harmonised forms, advanced passenger information systems will come into effect.
When that is done, “We’ll know who’s a sex offender or not,” he said.
But Al Rawi also told reporters that Government had sought a sex offenders law where a convicted sex offender’s passport could be stamped as such, “so Immigration officers would know automatically.”
He added, “the interest groups” didn’t want that for T&T and Government had to comply or the administration wouldn’t have gotten the “kind of support we wanted.”
In the wake of International Women’s Day celebrated yesterday, we encourage the Government and Opposition to revisit how we address these issues. Petty politics should not stand in the way of the safety of our women and girls.