Progress with US leaders, problems with United Kingdom’s media leader - the BBC.
While Trinidad and Tobago recently made headway in the US on Venezuela, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is most upset with the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC’s) recent documentary on T&T’s Venezuelan amnesty registration exercise - and he’s writing to the British Government on it.
The BBC programme, ‘The Displaced’, which started airing on social media yesterday, focused on Venezuelans seeking betterment here via Government’s registration drive over May to June.
The Government had stated that 16,523 Venezuelans registered.
The BBC video aired aspects of the registration process, including the anti-amnesty group which protested outside of the Queens’ Park Oval. Rowley particularly took issue with the aspect claiming T&T had 40,000 Venezuelans and only 16,000 were allowed to register.
Rowley said TT had 16,000 odd Venezuelans here and they were registered, including approximately 2,000 children.
But he added, “This didn’t prevent the BBC from going out of their way to misrepresent the position on T&T. As a lifelong listener and respecter of the BBC, the programme the BBC mentioned on T&T isn’t worthy of the BBC.
“Everyone around has an agenda and I’m not to believe there are people in the BBC who allowed themselves to be part of someone’s agenda. The BBC is too sacred to us in the Commonwealth for that nonsense to go on,” he said.
He said that on the last day of the registration there was nobody in the line and Government even continued the process on the weekend after.
“So it’s quite wrong for the BBC to put pressure, saying we have 40,000 people and registered 16,00 and didn’t allow the other 14,000 to register. That’s feeding into people’s agenda... I don’t know where they were getting those numbers from,” Dr Rowley said.
Rowley said Government made it clear if Venezuelans didn’t want to be registered, then they could not stay in this country.
“You’re not welcome; anybody who didn’t register, well, too bad for you..I don’t know there are 40,000 or even 14 Venezuelans who wanted to be registered and who didn’t. So we take objection to that!”
“The BBC is a Government agency in the UK and we’ll make a formal complaint to the British government about that,” Rowley added, saying he didn’t want T&T misrepresented in “this very dangerous world.”
He said he was disappointed the BBC was subscribing to a view that the truth doesn’t matter and the issue was what one can get people to believe.
He said the BBC didn’t have to use the anti-amnesty group who protested outside the Oval and convey that as T&T’s position since anyone would know the vast majority of nationals were not of “that ilk and didn’t behave like that.”
Rowley added the BBC didn’t have to reach out to Government since the registration information was public and Government answered many Opposition queries in Parliament.
“Our story is a very public one. I don’t know any BBC person had any difficulty - if their motive was honourable- to speak to any government member including myself; I know of no such approach, I’ve heard none of the ministers speak about. This came like a bolt out of the night,” he said.
He said he found it interesting the item arose just when he was preparing to attend the United Nations (UN) soon. When Newsday’s Sean Douglas asked if Government had a communication problem, Rowley snapped, “ You doh start dat! Doh start dat at all! You have no problem getting through to Government and I as prime minister stand here and answer every question you have! We’re not accepting we have a communication problem where this is concerned! It’s not an absence of communication that caused these people to misrepresent our circumstance.”
He said the UN had first started the 40,000 figure and that was wrong. He said there were people with agendas who wanted to inflate numbers to pressure T&T and people were demanding T&T institute a refugee policy, though the country is focusing on economic migrants.
The prime minister spoke about the developments at a media conference yesterday following his recent trip to the United States.
He met US Congressional leaders of teams on Foreign Relations, Security and Financial Services among others.
He said the bulk of the conversation was on the Venezuelan issue, security co-operation and derisking danger regional banks face from US banks’ hesitation to work with them. Several regional states - including T&T - were being blacklisted due to Global Forum and other European requirements.
Rowley said US discussions had gone as far as the possibility of having hearings in the US on Venezuela and the financial services issue. Consequently, a US delegation is coming to T&T for a few days from October 3 to discuss the matter sand US officers are eager to work with T&T.
He said T&T was congratulated for its handling of the Venezuelan amnesty.
Reporter: Gail Alexander