I refer to the letter by the Head of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), Mr. James Singh, purporting to explain the search of my luggage at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport on June 14, 2010 (Stabroek News June 30, 2010). Mr. Singh either did not get an accurate account of what transpired or he deliberately falsified what was reported to him.
First, contrary to what he reported, the officer who searched my luggage was not the one who apologized to me. Second, it was a bottle of Jerk seasoning that fell and not achar.
Third, no offer of compensation was made to me. In fact it was I who asked the officer who conducted the search about compensation.
He responded that it was the airline’s responsibility and escorted me to the waiting lounge and left.
The airline attendants then told me it was CANU’s responsibility to compensate me and promptly called the CANU unit. After a ten-minute wait, a CANU officer who appeared to be senior to the one who conducted the search came. He asked to speak privately with me (away from the hearing of the airline attendants) and I agreed.
He apologized for the breaking of the bottle and explained that the officer who carried out the search was relatively new and any pursuit of compensation could get him in trouble.
I then asked him why I was the only person on the flight who was searched and why within two minutes of checking-in the order for me to report to Gate 2 was repeatedly announced on the Public Address system.
I further asked whether this was standard procedure for such searches. His response was “We are merely carrying out instructions— practically the same answer the searching officer gave me.
I replied “I am not surprised, I should have expected this.” By this time it was time to go as everyone except me had boarded the airplane.
I want to make clear that I am not above the law nor do I seek exemption from routine searches. I have no problems having my luggage searched.
I travel often and have had my person and luggage searched many times.
But it was obvious that this was not a routine search; it seemed more like “political profiling.”
Curiously, the announcement over the PA system referred to me as “Dr David Hinds” and not as “David Hinds” which was written on the suitcase tag.
How did CANU know that David Hinds was Dr David Hinds? It should also be noted that Mr. Singh did not seize the opportunity to give the reason for this “routine” search.
We have been down this road in Guyana before. Today it’s me; tomorrow it’s some other critic of the government. Today it’s a search; tomorrow it’s a “plant.”
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