I have recently seen a notice in one of our daily newspapers of November 12th, 2011, identifying the officers from the U.S. Embassy who will be involved in observing and monitoring our National elections on the 28th November.
I would appreciate it if the relevant authority could inform me of the criteria used in selecting persons to act as observers of our electoral process. I find the presence of some of the names on this list to be most disturbing since from my personal experience those persons have demonstrated an inability to apply the democratic process in their handling of my situation.
They have shown scant regard for my rights as a Guyanese citizen and their actions have demonstrated that they are unprincipled, undemocratic and discriminatory.
My opinion stems from an incident that occurred on the 29th of December, 2010. My wife was chauffeuring her sister, an American citizen, and brother-in-law, a Caucasian Canadian citizen, who were visiting Guyana. She drove past the American Embassy in my company’s vehicle to which a camera was attached.
On January 20th, 2011, the CID contacted me having received correspondence from the U.S. Embassy, seeking information on the ownership of the vehicle, the occupants of the vehicle and for an explanation of what had transpired on December 29. As I was not in the vehicle, my wife gave a statement to the CID on the 24th January 2011. This statement pointed out, among other things, that the camera belonged to her brother-in-law and was attached to the vehicle by him to capture local scenery. This had been a practice of his throughout his vacation.
On the 24th of February, my wife and I went to the U.S. Consulate to renew our visas. At that interview, we were handled in a most unprofessional manner. We were accused, among other things, of conducting surveillance activities on the U.S. Embassy on several occasions. Indecent language was also used on me. We were informed that we could not be granted visas at that time since an administrative review of our case was necessary.
On exiting the Embassy, we were met by officers of the CID and were informed that they were there to arrest us at the request of the Embassy. This was despite our having explained to the Consular officers that my wife had given a statement concerning the incident of December 29th, 2010.
I wrote to the U.S. Consulate on March 3, refuting all allegations made during the interview and submitted an affidavit from my wife’s brother-in-law in which he indicated that the camera was his; that he affixed it to the vehicle and was solely responsible for the unfortunate incident. Further, he indicated that when the vehicle passed the American Embassy the camera was off. He supplied a disk of all the video footage he took on that day. I have never received a response to this correspondence.
In April, I was informed by one of my employees that photographs of me and my company’s vehicle were placed on the Embassy’s walls where they could be viewed by anyone entering and exiting. I immediately sought the intervention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to have my photograph removed and to assist in having my name cleared of their baseless accusations.
Approximately three and half months after the incident, Homeland Security agents finally visited my wife’s brother-in-law at his home in Miami.
He was able to explain the incident of December 29, 2010 and to show footage of the video he had taken on that day. It appears that his explanations were accepted as he remains in the USA to date without complications. His experience with the agents is in sharp contrast to the manner in which the Consulate officials have been dealing with us.
We were informed by mail of the sections of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalisation Act (INA) under which our visa renewal applications were rejected. We were offered no explanation or factual reason for the determination as is stipulated in the INA procedure manual.
According to this manual, “you must inform all visa applicants orally of both the section of the law under which the visa was refused and the factual basis for the refusal”.
It is apposite to note that I received this decision despite information I received via a telephone conversation with the State Department in Washington DC on June 24th during which it was revealed that my matter was dealt with and that it was recommended that I receive a visa.
I again wrote to the U.S. Consulate and the Charge d’Affaires asking for the facts that led to their determination as I am entitled to under their laws.
To date, no response has been received.
In response to my approach for their help on this matter, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote me on the results of their efforts. It would appear that the Embassy’s response to the Ministry’s queries on the numerous accusations leveled against me was to indicate that I had made misrepresentations to Consular officers and to the Ministry.
I responded to both the Charge d’Affaires and the Director General of the MFA supplying evidence to show that, once again, the U.S. Consulate was being deceitful in its dealings on this matter. To date neither of us has received any correspondence refuting any of evidence I have provided.
On July 27, 2011, I was informed by a colleague, an American citizen, that on returning to the U.S. with his family from vacation, he was extensively grilled on his relationship with my wife and me for nearly three hours. He has provided the Embassy with an Affidavit of this experience.
Once again the U.S. Consulate, the instigators of this new source of embarrassment, has failed to respond to my queries on why this had been done. It leaves me to wonder had my family been Caucasian and Canadian would we have been treated in this manner since no such treatment has been dealt to my wife’s brother-in-law, his family or acquaintances.
Over the last several months I have written numerous letters to the then Charge d’Affaires and more recently to the Ambassador seeking to have my name cleared of the charges leveled against me by Embassy officials and which are yet to be substantiated. The Embassy’s usual response reveals an obsession with informing me that a decision has been made on my application and that it cannot be changed.
This is in spite of my best efforts to state clearly in my letters that my interest is in clearing my name of the baseless allegations.
My experience with the US Embassy officials over the last several months has been anything but reflective of the democratic process which the country they represent holds in such high esteem. Their attitude towards my situation has been cavalier and discriminatory.
It would appear that an Embassy official can level accusations at a citizen of this country and tarnish their reputation under the guise of dispensing his or her duties and when called upon to provide evidence their responses indicate that they feel that they are above reproach and accountability for their actions and behaviours.
I would, therefore, view it as an extreme affront should I see any of these so-called guardians of democracy at the polling station where I will be casting my vote on elections day. I would suggest that these officials use November 28th to observe their own democratic processes with a view to fixing the lack thereof within the Consulate.
NOBLE HOUSE SEAFOODS LIMITED
Editor’s Note: We have sent a copy of this letter to the local US Embassy for any comments that they may be willing to make.
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I have been doing columns since 1988. I have been a major columnist with the Catholic Standard, Stabroek News, Kaieteur... more