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Ministry of National Security Stuart Young, speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Health on COVID-19.

One member of a group of T&T citizens was left stranded in Suriname because of this country’s ongoing travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic may still receive an exemption from National Security Minister Stuart Young to return home.

Guardian Media understands that since lawyers representing Ashmeed Syne, of Waterloo Road, Carapichaima, made the request on Sunday, they have been in constant negotiations with Young to resolve the issue.

In an email sent to Syne’s lawyer Umesh Maharaj on Tuesday, Young questioned whether Syne did COVID-19 testing and noted that he would be required to do so before his application is considered. Young also sought to enquire over Syne’s suggested travel arrangements, if he is granted the exemption.

In his response, Maharaj admitted that Syne had not taken a test and claimed that he was unable to do so since he was unable to contact a medical professional to arrange one.

Noting that Syne was asymptomatic (showed no symptoms), Maharaj quoted Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram’s statements that local testing focuses on persons with a recent travel history that display symptoms.

Maharaj also questioned whether similar requirements were placed on other citizens, who were allowed to travel before the ban took effect on March 22, including the over 60 passengers of the Costa Favolosa cruise ship, most of whom tested positive while under mandatory quarantine in Balandra.

“In anticipation of any objection based upon confidentiality of personal information, may I pre-empt any such objection by indicating that I wish to know only if the same conditions were applied,” Maharaj said, as he claimed that Syne would consider filing a lawsuit if they were given any concessions not being afforded to him.

Despite his concerns, Maharaj claimed that Syne was willing to take the test if it could be facilitated by T&T’s diplomatic mission in Suriname.

In terms of his proposed travel arrangements, if he afforded the exemption, Maharaj claimed that his client had assurances from Suriname Airways and government of Suriname that a flight would be given clearance to depart once he (Syne) is granted the exemption. He noted that the flight crew would not seek permission to disembark when they land.

“My client is eternally grateful to the government of Suriname who by their actions have shown much more sympathy, empathy, and understanding for the plight of citizens from T&T than the government of T&T,” Maharaj said.

In an email response sent around midday Wednesday, Young indicated that his ministry was exploring whether it could arrange for a doctor in Suriname to examine him. He noted that the cruise ship passengers underwent similar examinations before they were allowed to fly in on a charter flight from Guadeloupe.

Young criticized the short time-lines Maharaj gave him to respond as he noted that Parasram and public health officials were presently grappling with the pandemic.

“Accordingly your continued unilateral deadlines and threats for response are unreasonable. This matter is receiving the urgent attention that it deserves in very trying times,” Young said, as he stated that his ministry may be able to have the examination and a decision made within 24 to 48 hours.

“Your client’s well being is of concern,” Young said.

Syne, a bolting technician contracted with Surinamese firm Exsol Industrial NV flew to Paramaribo, Suriname, on February 28 to work on an oil refinery being refurbished by that country’s State-owned oil company Staatsolie.

Syne received US$40 per day to cover his living expenses, which is expected to be stopped soon.

In addition to his personal issues after Suriname closed its airport and instituted a curfew, Maharaj claimed that the travel ban has also affected his family, for which he is the sole breadwinner. He said that Syne only left financial arrangements in place to cover his family until his expected return on March 22.

Syne and 31 other stranded nationals were expected to return on a flight scheduled to take place before the ban took effect, however, it was cancelled due to the unavailability of a flight crew.

Syne is also being represented by Gerald Ramdeen.