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Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar addresses a virtual public meeting last night.

United National Congress leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has again knocked Government over its handling of repatriating Trinidad and Tobago citizens stranded abroad by the lockdown of the borders due to COVID-19, likening this treatment to slavery and indentureship.

Persad-Bissessar made this link between the two disparate issues while speaking at the UNC’s virtual meeting on Thursday night, as she waded into Government yet again for abandoning nationals awaiting exemptions to return home.

“You cannot abandon over 10,000 citizens of your country, you cannot do that. That is worse, I think, than slavery and indentureship,” Persad-Bissessar told supporters.

“But another very shameful and sad and traumatising thing is the way our Government has treated our stranded citizens who are abroad. They are like vagrants there, they are like stateless people, they have no home, no nation. You have disenfranchised them because you will not bring them back in time to vote.”

She added, “But you have also taken away their basic constitutional right of belonging to a state.”

Persad-Bissessar said while no individual was “Stateless”, the Government had made the stranded citizens just that by abandoning them.

“How are they living? 10,000 people. Our stranded citizens man, how can you do this?” she asked.

Persad-Bissessar noted that the Government had said it gave permission for some 4,000 to return home. But she questioned the selection process.

“What criteria did you use? How did you choose who should come in? If any Government should be voted out of office on August 10, it’s the Rowley Government that should go, they must go,” Persad-Bissessar told supporters.

Persad-Bissessar claimed she shared her repatriation plan with Rowley when they met to discuss the COVID-19 plan. She said part of her plan was to bring back citizens while abiding by the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

She said she presented a five-pillar plan and that too was abandoned by the Prime Minister, noting his only plan was to close the borders.

“They had no plan pre-COVID, no plan during COVID and no plan post-COVID,” she said.

She said the Government was also now trying to incite fear by saying that she wanted to reopen the borders.

“Yeah, blame Kamla again, when you as a Government cannot have a plan or a policy position to repatriate our citizens back to where they belong, our citizens want to come home, and they must be given that chance,” she said.

“While they reject our citizens, hundreds of illegal fellas coming through the borders and then you gonna bring hundreds more to play CPL.”

Persad-Bissessar said that should the UNC form the next government, they will bring all stranded citizens home while adhering to the WHO protocols which every other country was using to bring back their nationals.