May 1 2011 – newsday.co.tt
The recent kidnapping for ransom of a citizen of China who owned and operated a restaurant at St Helena has brought to the fore, once again, the question of illegal immigrants living and working in Trinidad and Tobago.
Speaking in Senate recently, Independent Senator Rolph Balgobin raised this issue.
And his concerns are, in our opinion, relevant and need to be examined. We need to know, as a matter of some importance, how many non-citizens of Trinidad and Tobago currently own and operate businesses in our country.
And this information should be amplified to let us know what are the businesses these illegal immigrants are operating, and how they were granted licences (where licences are required) to operate these businesses. We need to know how many persons are employed in these foreign-owned establishments, and what are the nationalities of these employees?
If these employees are all foreigners, we need to know if they have Work Permits to be employed here. And if, for instance, they are foreigners employed in say, restaurants in Trinidad and Tobago, how were they granted the work permits they may be holding.
Balgobin has suggested that many new businesses, particularly restaurants, have opened in recent years, and appear to be owned and operated by persons who appear to be immigrants. He has suggested that many of these businesses do not appear to be viable, with very limited customer bases. The suggestion is that many may be fronts for money laundering and other illegal activities.
Of course, the recent and still unsolved kidnapping of Ms Shan, and the murder in Ellerslie Plaza of restaurant owner Anthony Chen, have fuelled rumours of connections between these two incidents, and talk of a “Chinese mafia” involved in crime in Trinidad and Tobago. In the absence of evidence to support these theories, we ask our readers to only accept what is actually known, and not to speculate on the rumours.
However, the incidents, whether related or not, when taken with Balgobin’s concerns, need to be investigated beyond the actual crimes known so far. The Ministry of National Security, responsible for the investigations into kidnappings and murders, as well as immigration and citizenship issues, needs to explain to the country just which immigrants can arrive in TT and set up businesses here. And what types of business they may establish.
About a year ago we heard of a case where a foreigner, resident in Maraval, had applied to the police for a permit to own and use a firearm. The person was the operator, if not owner, of a licenced business here in our country, but could not speak English.
How can an illegal immigrant, who does not speak our language, come into our country and operate a business? Was this person actually granted a firearm users’ licence? How many of the several businesses — euphemistically called “private members’ clubs” – are foreign owned and operated? And who granted these licences, and under what conditions?
We recall that former Prime Minister Patrick Manning had, in a sudden and obviously passing fit of morality, announced he was going to close down certain types of clubs, and even end the State owned Lotto. But nothing came of that announcement.
However, we totally support Balgobin’s call for some light to be shed on the issue of foreign-owned and managed businesses being operated in our country. We call on him to put this issue, and its related financial implications, to the Minister of National Security for answer in the Senate.