PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has welcomed the police investigation into human trafficking allegations which both she and Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley have levelled at members of each other’s party.
And she has called for all those who have pointed fingers to assist with the probe, and even called for the prime minister to be the first to be interviewed.
“I call on everyone who’s making allegations to now provide documented evidence to the TTPS [Trinidad and Tobago Police Service] to support the allegations they’ve made. The time for hearsay and mauvais langue is over,” she said in a statement issued on Thursday, a day after Commissioner of Police Erla Christopher announced that she had appointed a special team of officers to investigate allegations that senior government officials were involved in human trafficking.
The matter being investigated stems from the United States’ July 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report which stated that the twin-island republic remained on the Tier 2 Watchlist partly because it did not take action against senior government officials alleged in 2020 to be involved in human trafficking.
While Prime Minister Rowley said those officials were members of the United National Congress (UNC), the opposition pointed fingers at the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM).
Persad-Bissessar said she condemns human trafficking as “a vile scourge and evil in our society and all those who enable it should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”.
“In this regard, the UNC welcomes the investigation announced by the Commissioner of Police and the TTPS into human trafficking by ‘senior government officials’ as identified in the US reports. Hopefully, the Counter-Trafficking Unit, which was formed in 2013 by my UNC government, can contribute to this investigation,” she said.
However, she said she was puzzled why this investigation was only being started, given that ever since ‘senior government officials’ were identified by the US State Department as being involved in human trafficking, the UNC has sought to get answers in the Parliament on what was being done about this.
“The Rowley Government sat on its hands and did nothing. Its inaction caused Trinidad and Tobago to be disgracefully downgraded to the international Tier 2 Watch List for human trafficking,” she said, adding that when the matter was brought up in Parliament last Friday, Rowley “attempted a grand distraction by pointing fingers scandalously and maintaining that he wasn’t responsible for taking the required action”.
“We need the factual basis of the information he supplied last Friday.”
Persad-Bissessar also called on the TTPS to investigate whether advertising in the daily newspapers via ads for escort and other personal services may amount to enabling human trafficking.
“It’s amazing that some media continue to pontificate against human trafficking at the front of their newspapers, whilst in the back in their classified ads section, they may be actively enabling human trafficking,” she said.