Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last night hit back at the British MP who raised the plight of Trinidad and Tobago nationals stranded in the UK due to the closure of T&T borders since March.
Speaking at a People’s National Movement post-Budget meeting in Belmont, Rowley described Steven Baker, the Conservative representative for Wycomb, as an “itinerant British MP” that the United National Congress had found to raise the issue in the UK Parliament.
Speaking in the UK Parliament on Tuesday, Baker appealed to the T&T Government to repatriate its citizens stranded in the UK.
“I’ve got Trinidad and Tobago residents or citizens in my constituency burning through their savings really terrified about failing to get home to protect their homes and businesses from approaching severe weather. Can I ask the minister to join me in calling on Trinidad and Tobago to make sure their citizens get home, I think it’s our common humanity to enable people to return home to protect their homes,” Baker said.
However, the Prime Minister told supporters that Government understood the hardship being experienced by citizens abroad due to the border closure as part of the COVID-19 pandemic, but had sent cash to embassies and missions abroad to assist those who were really destitute abroad while it accelerated the process of repatriating citizens.
While he admitted the cash may not have been a lot, he said the United National Congress got Baker to undermine T&T by raising the issue in the British parliament.
“The UNC once again, undermining Trinidad and Tobago’s position, the UNC through, through Moonilal and Kamla Persad-Bissessar, find some itinerant British MP, some fellah called Steve Baker. He ignore what we have done and what we are doing for our people, he gone inside the British parliament to go and raise issue about humanitarian conditions for Trinidad and Tobago citizens on behalf of the UNC in England in the Parliament. So once again the UNC is prepared to nasty up Trinidad and Tobago’s name and taking credit for it,” Rowley said.
He said as fate would have it, he met with the newly-appointed British High Commissioner to T&T, Harriet Cross, at Whitehall on Tuesday. The very next day, however, was when he learned of Baker’s comments.
“By Wednesday in the Parliament, I am discovering that the UNC is in the British parliament at the backbench lying on Trinidad and Tobago and getting some person to portray our country in the worst possible light,” the Prime Minister said.
“All I will say to Mr Baker, if you are interested in the people of Trinidad and Tobago and if you are interested in the people of Trinidad and Tobago and if you have nothing to do in Wycombe and you want to help us, we trying to get back ah set ah money that they thief from Trinidad that is in England, try and get the British to help us get back the money that they thief from Trinidad.”
He added, “They have already got a senior counsel from Britain pleading guilty in a Port-of-Spain court for thiefing public money with the assistance of UNC officials. There is much more to that, so Mr Baker, you will be receiving a correspondence from me personally asking you to help us bring back those who have stolen our money and have it in Britain and are in Britain, bring it back to justice in Trinidad and Tobago.”
In a wide-ranging address, Rowley also touched on the proposal to raise the retirement age to 65. He said the NIB is “in danger of heading towards bankruptcy” and increasing the retirement age was one of the ways to prevent that.
He said there will be continued conversations about raising the retirement age.
He also said while the planned privatisation of the Port of Port-of-Spain may lead to job losses, the current model under the Ministry of Works and Transport hasn’t worked.
He was critical of the UNC, describing members of the party as “unpatriotic underminers of T&T.”
Commenting on the UNC’s contributions to the Budget debate, which wrapped up in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, the PM said it was “the worst debate I have ever had the chance to see or participate in.”
Finance Minister Colm Imbert and Education Minister Nyan Gadsby Dolly also spoke at last night’s meeting.