PM blasts BBC ‘agenda’ in migrant report

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

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