The mandatory fingerprinting of all Caricom nationals entering Trinidad and Tobago could affect relations, especially trade relations between this country and its neighbours.
So said Port of Spain South MP Marlene McDonald as she contributed in the House of Representatives yesterday to the debate on the Administration of Justice Bill which requires all Caricom nationals entering Trinidad and Tobago to be fingerprinted.
“AG, I am urging you to look again at this situation with our Caricom neighbours. Because I believe it can lead to irreparable damage,” she said.
She said the legislation was in breach of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which clearly states that Caricom nationals must be afforded equal treatment with Trinidad and Tobago nationals “unless they are criminals”. She said Article 7 of the treaty states that any discrimination on the grounds of nationality shall be prohibited.
McDonald noted that visitors from South America, North America, Asia and Europe would also suffer the same fate as Caricom nationals.
“I am wondering whether Government is thinking about the time it would take in the airport, the delays in the airport, the unnecessary bureaucracy in having all visitors being fingerprinted,” she said. She asked if the infrastructure was in place at the airport and seaport to accommodate this provision.
“And what about Tobago and its tourism thrust?” she asked. “All their tourists coming from all over the world, Germany, US, etc, are we going to tell them to line up so that we could fingerprint all these people?” McDonald asked.
She appealed to the Attorney General to look at the bigger picture. “We want investors, we want tourism, we want to remove barriers and obstacles to free travel and enhance the ease of doing business,” she said.
She suggested that the Minister of Foreign Affairs should be given the power to exempt countries with whom Trinidad and Tobago had treaties or reciprocal agreements “so that this fingerprinting requirement would not be imposed on citizens of those countries.
McDonald also criticised the provision which allows a police officer to take someone’s fingerprints if he/she suspects that the person was involved in the commission of a crime. “What is happening here is that no longer do you have to be charged with an offence to be fingerprinted, you just have to be suspected and that is it,” she said. Government should be mindful of the issue of the invasion of privacy, she said.