A professional mariner, of San Fernando, who has been stranded in Barbados for over two months due to the closure of this country’s borders because of the COVID-19 pandemic, is threatening to sue the State.
Lawyers representing Marc Lorenzo Bodden, of Golconda, made the threat in a pre-action protocol letter sent to the Ministry of National Security and the Office of the Attorney General on Monday.
In the letter, which was obtained by Guardian Media, Bodden’s lawyers Anand Ramlogan, SC, and Che Dindiyal claimed the ministry’s repeated refusal to grant him an exemption to return to this country was unreasonable, irrational, and arbitrary and that the reasons given for doing so were ambiguous, generic, and dismissive.
“Our client has been unfairly treated as other nationals have been granted exemption orders allowing them back into Trinidad. Our client’s situation is no different,” Dindiyal said.
According to Bodden’s lawyers, the 50-year-old father of six left Trinidad to go to Brazil to complete a four-day nautical training course on March 14.
Shortly after arriving at his destination, Bodden learned of the Government’s move to close the country’s borders to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Bodden attempted to change his flight but was unsuccessful. He visited this country’s embassy in Brazil and was advised to travel to Barbados via the United Kingdom, in order to have an opportunity to return.
When Bodden arrived in Barbados he was required to undergo 14 days of mandatory quarantine and a COVID-19 test which returned negative.
While in Barbados, Bodden and the company he was contracted to repeatedly wrote to National Security Minister Stuart Young for an exemption for him to return to Trinidad to meet his contractual obligations, which were set to begin on May 6.
In the letter, Bodden’s lawyers claimed that he has been forced to spend US$5,000 in accommodation and living expenses and rely on the charity of strangers while stranded in Barbados.
They said that the situation has decimated his finances as he is the sole breadwinner in his family and lost out on his contract when he was unable to return to Trinidad in May.
“Not only is it a mental and emotional challenge for our client, but there is real difficulty of his financial strain extending to his family,” Dindiyal said.
Stating that Bodden feels like a refugee, Dindiyal questioned why he was blanked while 33 members of a tour group, who were also stranded in Barbados after similarly travelling there in a last-ditched attempt to return home, were granted exemptions and admitted entry on April 21.
“It is also discriminatory and in breach of our client’s right to equality of treatment from a public authority in the exercise of its functions under Section 4(d) of the Constitution as permission has been granted to many other similarly circumstanced nationals to return home,” Dindiyal said.
Through the proposed lawsuit, Bodden is seeking declarations against Young and an order compelling him to reconsider his application for an exemption. He is also seeking financial compensation.
Dindiyal gave the ministries 48 hours in which to reply to the letter. They had not received a response up to yesterday afternoon.