Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar speaks during the debate on a motion of no confidence against National Security Minister Stuart Young in Parliament yesterday.

Gail Alexander

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has queried why the National Security Ministry allowed 17 embassy workers to leave and return to T&T this week and be put on home quarantine.

She also accused National Security Minister Stuart Young of breaking fire service rules at his Westmoorings apartment.

This was part of the “fire” Persad-Bissessar “lit up” on Young yesterday during her no-confidence motion against him in Parliament. Heated debate featured on Government and Opposition sides.

Quarrelling loudly about Young, she said he’d demonstrated his inability to competently execute his duties.

Persad-Bissessar called on MPs to express lack of confidence in him “just as citizens in Trinidad and Tobago, in Arima Central, Cunupia and Hindustan/St Mary’s expressed no confidence in the PNM on Monday.”

She said, “This Minister has a track record of speaking out of turn, trying to deflect, or simply speaking untruths. He’s tried to blame everyone else for his own incompetence. His favourite phrase is to call people unpatriotic but if there was any unpatriotic MP, it’s Minister Young who’s exiled and abandoned thousands of citizens by his exemption policy.”

Persad-Bissessar was halted twice on her first argument – that Young had no sole power under the law to decide on exemptions. Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said such matters were in the court.

Persad-Bissessar then raised a January 22 letter to the Chief Immigration Officer from the National Security Ministry’s permanent secretary on the minister’s behalf.

This stated 17 people were due to leave T&T on Monday to go to Guyana and to return yesterday.

She said the letter stated the people would proceed to their places of residence via closed vehicle and undergo home quarantine.

“Why are we allowing this? There’s discrimination and inequality of treatment of our citizens? What you have against T&T citizens?”

Al-Rawi asked if it was diplomats.

She confirmed the people worked in an embassy but said, COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate on victims.

Noting yesterday’s Guardian story on today’s debate and UNC’s projected “Fire for Young”, Persad-Bissessar cited a matter concerning Young.

She alluded to an upscale residential condominium complex, The Towers (Westmoorings on the Sea), where residents signed a lease agreement prohibiting use/occupation of common areas and blocking of passages and corridors which impede safe passage to fire exits in event of an emergency.

“When a safety audit was done in 2020, it found that of 126 apartments, 34 residents were non-compliant. After requesting residents to clear corridors and remove personal items blocking the fire escape, 26 complied. Of the owners who refused to comply was the National Security Minister and another owner, known to him.”

“The Fire Service’s Prevention Unit conducted an inspection and reported on December 2, 2020. Its report highlighted health and safety hazards and obstructions which endanger the lives of all residents, particularly children and the elderly in the event of a fire or other emergency.”

Persad-Bissessar continued, “The Fire Services weren’t aware at that time that the minister was a resident there but noted the danger in the vicinity of his unit. I’m reliably informed that the minister and persons known to him refused to clear corridors and fire escape routes further endangering the lives of fellow residents.”

She said the Fire Services issued another letter dated December 31, 2020, indicating that “all issues previously highlighted have been adequately corrected”.

Persad-Bissessar was halted by House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George who said she had to connect the issue to the motion. Persad-Bissessar said Young’s ministry holds responsibility for the Fire Services but the matter was ruled irrelevant to Young’s performance.

Persad-Bissesar also called for answers on a Venezuelan prostitution ring which she said Venezuelan authorities had claimed people in T&T were responsible for. Persad-Bissessar added, “But time longer than a zip line and every zip line has an end and incompetence has to end.”