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Opposition MP Rodney Charles responds to a question as colleague Wade Mark looks on during a press conference at the Office of the Opposition Leader in Port-of-Spain yesterday.

SHARLENE RAMPERSAD

Opposition Member of Parliament Rodney Charles has called on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to stop his ‘gallerying’ and ‘bullying’ and take action on the Venezuelan migrant crisis.

Speaking at a United National Congress press conference yesterday, Charles, who is the shadow Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs, called on Rowley to get his ministers of National Security (Stuart Young) and Foreign and Caricom Affairs (Dr Amery Browne) to act or fire them.

He said this country’s current handling of the Venezuelan migrant situation is failing.

“It is serving neither the interests of Venezuelans here, nor those risking their lives on the seas, nor the interests of the people of T&T whose welcoming mat may soon experience stresses, nor our international reputation, nor relations with future Venezuelan administrations, nor our economic relations with our major trading partners, nor our domestic social peace and harmony,” Charles said.

He said the Government’s position on the migrant crisis also puts this country at odds with its Caricom sister, Guyana, which currently has an ongoing territorial dispute with Venezuela at the International Court of Justice.

He accused the Prime Minister of being unable to handle the complex diplomatic crises.

“He (Rowley) sees things in binary terms i.e. black versus white, imps versus patriots, friends versus foes. Dr Rowley is not the diplomat we need in these difficult times. Dr Amery Browne appears to be an absentee Foreign Minister,” Charles said.

Charles recalled incidents between local fishermen and Venezuela’s Guardia Nacional, saying this country has long had a challenge in managing its relations with Venezuela.

He said T&T must be careful of how its current treatment of Venezuelan migrants will look to that country’s future leaders.

“If we do not manage this crisis effectively, then future Venezuelan administrations will take note of how we treated them in their hour of need,” Charles said.

“They will remember the deaths at sea, whether or not the fault was ours or theirs. They will not forget the human trafficking and the prostitution of their women. They will think long and hard about whether we could have, notwithstanding our limited resources, done better to promote democracy in their homeland.”

Charles said the UNC is now calling on the Government to develop and seek regional and global support for a well-thought-out and well-developed migrant/refugee policy that is humane, recognises T&T’s international treaty obligations, the country’s absorptive capacity and its human resource needs.

“In the absence of such a policy, our actions appear incoherent, reactive, uncoordinated, ad hoc and lacking guiding principles that are defensible, diligently pursued and which serve our interests,” he said.

He said the Government also needs to reframe its foreign policy principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela. He accused the Government of supporting one side of the Venezuelan divide.

Instead of taking sides, Charles said the Government needs to be a broker for a free and fair Venezuelan election.

“Instead, adopt a policy of T&T being an honest broker bringing contending forces in Venezuela to the table of reason with the sole purpose of convening early, internationally supervised elections so that the will of the Venezuelan people will prevail through free and fair elections,” Charles said.

Charles said National Security Minister Stuart Young should admit his incompetence was the root of T&T’s Venezuelan migrant crisis. He said Young needs to get serious and lockdown this country’s borders, as he said their porousness has made T&T an easy target for human traffickers and immigrants.

“This leads to waves of illegal undocumented immigrants, the over-burdening of our social safety nets, unpopular deportations and worse, from an international image standpoint – dead bodies in surrounding waters.”