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PM: No conflict between ministers

By Kim Boodram

PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissesssar said yesterday she saw no conflict between Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran and National Security Minister Gary Griffith over relations with Jamaica.

Persad-Bissessar was responding to questions based on a newspaper report that Griffith had deemed Dookeran to be out of place in making promises to his Jamaican counterpart, AJ Nicholson, following claims by that country that Trinidad and Tobago was defeating the Caricom spirit and possibly violating CSME (Caricom Single Market and Economy) rules, by consistently refusing entry to large numbers of Jamaicans.

Dookeran met this week with Nicholson in Jamaica, accompanied by T&T’s Chief Immigration Officer. Griffith said he had not been invited to the meeting.

  A newspaper report quoted Griffith as saying that immigration matters still fall under the portfolio of National Security and immigration officers will continue to enforce the entry rules that all persons must meet before being allowed into the country.

“I don’t see that there is an impasse,” Persad-Bissessar said, following the Prime Minister’s annual Christmas luncheon for diplomats, clergy, heads of non-governmental organisations and other specially-invited guests, at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s.

“The Minister of National Security has a job to do, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has a job to do...I don’t see them in conflict at all.”

Persad-Bissessar said she had not yet spoken to Griffith on the newspaper report and she did not want to comment without having done so to verify his statements.

“I wouldn’t want to comment on what is being allegedly said,” Persad-Bissessar said.

The PM said, however, that this is a sovereign country and, like all other countries in the region, it is normal to protect the borders and the citizens.

Persad-Bissessar said while it is not  felt that all immigrants have a criminal background, there have been instances.

This country will continue to protect itself, she said, and while the rules may be more flexible where Caricom nationals are concerned, the law was “more stringent” with foreigners.

Commenting on Griffith’s estimate of up to 30,000 illegal immigrants living in T&T, Persad-Bissessar said the current system made accurate estimates difficult.

Asked whether the Government will begin a drive to deport large numbers of illegal immigrants, Persad-Bissessar said: “That is not contemplated at the moment.”

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