Feb 06, 2011 News
…man compelled to repay UG loan
In what appears to be another twist in the ongoing Demerara Cricket Board (DCB) elections saga, former Public Relations Officer of the entity, Rovin Stanley, is alleging that certain officials not related to cricket used their political influence to deny him leaving the country.
He was returning to Canada where he and his family currently reside.
The former Government Information Agency (GINA) officer was made to repay his entire University of Guyana loan before being permitted to leave the country, following a short visit.
He strongly believes that his links to one of the feuding factions of the DCB resulted in his predicament.
Stanley said that he turned up at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri, at 09:30 hrs on January 23, last, with his wife Tasleema, and daughter Ashley en route to Canada.
“Myself, my wife Tasleema and daughter, Ashley, checked in at the Caribbean Airlines counter at the Cheddi Jagan Int’l Airport, Timehri, and approached Immigration Officer Coojah at the security checkpoint.
“He told my wife that I was blocked from travelling and asked her if I was involved in any criminal court matter. When she said no, and asked why I was blocked from travelling, he could not give a reason.
“He came out of his cubicle and took us to another Immigration Officer, Ms. Sealey, who continued the interrogation,” Stanley recounted.
According to Stanley, Officer Sealey asked him if he was ever the recipient of a Government of Guyana Scholarship, and he replied in the negative.
She then asked if he was granted a student loan to study at the University of Guyana and his response was in the affirmative, but he indicated that he had 15 years in which to repay.
Stanley stated that the officer then demanded his passport, moved away from him, and went into a room, before returning to tell him that Public Service Minister, Dr. Jennifer Westford was dealing with the matter personally, and that he should go to the Minister’s office on the following day.
She told him that his passport would be returned when the matter was settled with the Minister. This forced him to reschedule his flight.
“I visited the Minister’s office the next day and spoke to her on the phone and she said to me that a decision was made at Cabinet some time back which provided for University of Guyana students who took government loans and lived overseas to be blocked at the airport if they have not repaid the loans.
“I told the Minister that it is illegal to do this since I have 15 years to repay the loan and I had only finished UG in 2006. I also told the Minister that there are many of my friends from UG who live overseas and travel frequently who have never been stopped even though they owe student loans,” Stanley said.
He recalled that on January 23, Kwame Mc Coy stopped the state media from covering one of the DCB’s Annual General Meetings, which was held at the Wales Community Development Centre, while at the same time allowing them to cover the other elections, held at Lusignan.
Stanley recounted that in mid-2010, Minister Irfaan Ali had asked to become Patron of the DCB and he, in the capacity of PRO, and Vice-President Anand Sanasie had disapproved, citing the inappropriateness of the move, given that Dr. Frank Anthony was the Minister of Sport.
“Minutes later Mr. Bissoondial Singh, who was then President of the DCB called me and asked for my approval for Minister Ali’s request, which I turned down.
“Minister Ali then called me and told me that he knows that I voted against him and that I was taking an anti-government position when I held a government position as the Manager of the Public Relations Unit of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).
“A few days later, the Commissioner General of GRA, Khurshid Sattaur enquired about the situation, indicating that the Minister called him pertaining to the matter. I told him it was cricket-related and that he has nothing to worry about.”
“At that point, I felt that Minister Ali was threatening my job because of his personal involvement in cricket.
These issues were related to Minister Westford. “She shrugged off these contentions and told me that “someone is lying to me”. She was adamant that my existing loan was the reason and I need to return with all the money to her office in order to get back my passport.
“I told her that I need to leave the country and that I am willing to make additional payments on my loan, but I was not in a position to repay the entire sum. She reiterated that the only options that I have are to repay the loan which stood at $740,000 or pledge a land title or transport,” Stanley disclosed.
He said he then proceeded to the Ministry of Finance in search of a compromise, but was unable to see the Minister of Finance since it was the day after the presentation of the National Budget.
“I met Minister Jennifer Webster (Junior Finance Minister), who contended that she knows of no policy to block students at the airport who are not up-to-date with loan repayments and are residing overseas.
“She accepted a proposal from me to pay $100,000 towards the principal of the loan and for me to pay $7,500 monthly, instead of the current minimum payment of $5,000.
“My relatives and I then drove up to the University of Guyana and met with Registrar at the University of Guyana, Mr. Vincent Alexander, who submitted that UG is not responsible for the loan, but also indicated that as far as he knows there is no policy to stop students at the airport who have outstanding loan payments and are living overseas,” Stanley pointed out.
He said that Alexander contacted Minister Westford via telephone in his presence and she again reiterated that it was a recent Cabinet decision and that Stanley was not the only student who had been stopped this way.
Stanley revealed that he then left and proceeded to the Loan Department at UG and made the payment in addition to a pledge to pay the higher monthly instalment.
“I went back to Minister Webster’s office on January 25, in pursuit of a written document indicating that I had settled the UG Loan matter.
“The Minister, through her secretary, told us that she spoke to Minister Westford and that I should go to the Public Service Ministry and produce the loan documents and uplift my passport. On arrival there, Minister Westford’s secretary, Ms. Cummings, told us that she is unaware of any orders to release my passport, and that I should return at 15:00 hrs with the full loan payment.
“We then proceeded to the Office of the President in order to see Dr. Roger Luncheon to resolve the matter, but were unable to do so. I was asked to make an appointment in writing, by the guards at the gate.”
Stanley said that on Wednesday, January 26, he went to the Office of the Prime Minister in order to get a resolution and was then told that his passport was available.
“When I returned to the Public Service Ministry I received my passport, but it bore a stamp which read “the bearer is contractually obligated to the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana relating to his/her training education.” It was` dated January 25, 2011.
“At this time, the situation reached desperation point, as all hopes of a solution were exhausted. I was now uncertain as to when I would be able to leave the country to return to my studies and job in Canada. I once again called my travel agent and rescheduled my flight.
“The next day we went to Freedom House and met with the General Secretary of the PPP and MP, Mr. Donald Ramotar, who at that point was the only person that took time to sit with us and listen to our plight despite the many Government Ministers and foreign dignitaries who were lined up to meet with him.
“He told us that Minister Westford said it was a Cabinet decision to stop students at the airport and it has nothing to do with my involvement in cricket,” Stanley related.
According to him, the further delay had now placed his job and studies in jeopardy since a two-day leave from his job had now been extended to two weeks.
“Without a solution in sight, I was forced to swallow my pride and borrow the remaining $650,000 to pay-off the loan at the University of Guyana.
“I called the Minister’s secretary, who told us that the money has to be paid in at her Ministry, and not at UG, if I wanted to be cleared for travel on the weekend. I paid the sum via Manager’s Cheque at the Accounting Office of the Public Service Ministry, and resubmitted my passport.
“I later returned to the Ministry and uplifted my passport which then bore an overriding stamp stating that I was no longer obligated to the government for training. I was also issued with a letter stating same to present at the Immigration Desk at the airport.
“I had to then incur additional cost to reschedule my flight to leave Guyana on January 31, 2011,” Stanley explained.
He said that he is convinced that the whole episode at the airport was due to the inappropriate, distasteful and counterproductive personal involvement of a few government officials in the politics of cricket in the country.
“My loan agreement and all other documents from the loan agency give me 15 years to repay my loan from 2006 when I graduated from the University of Guyana. It was irrational, inappropriate and illegal for the government to ask me to repay my loan after four years.
“I am further convinced that this is not a government policy since as a Guyanese who worked at the Government Information Agency and at the GRA, I know that Guyana is a functioning democracy and all government decisions and policies are well advertised and the government spends millions of dollars to ensure the entire country is aware of its policies and programmes.”
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