Visa worries for Jamaican ministers

James Robertson.

Later last month, the American State Department cancelled the entry visa of Jamaican Energy and Mining Minister James Robertson triggering panic in an already beleaguered cabinet and the business community and forcing the administration of Prime Minister Bruce Golding to ask for consultations with Washington.

The Obama administration stunned Jamaicans when it was announced Robertson had had his entry visa cancelled, resulting in his immediate resignation from a cabinet that is still trying to recover from its close links to Christopher “Dudus” Coke, the island’s most wanted man whose extradition to the U.S. a year ago led to more than a week of fighting involving security forces and gunmen in Coke’s inner city stronghold. More than 70 people were killed including soldiers and police officers.

His predicament comes months after the State Department took similar action against one of the island’s leading businessmen and as rumors purvey in the halls of power in Jamaica that U.S. prosecutors are sitting on unsealed indictments against prominent citizens because of alleged links to the underworld.

The U.S. mission in the Jamaican capital, Kingston, as usual did not say why Robertson lost his visa privileges but his attorney was the one who said that he believed it was linked to allegations that he had had close links to the narco underworld, leading to his departure from cabinet and egg on the face of the Golding cabinet.

In recent years, the U.S. has been using the power of visa revocation to send strong political messages to politicians and powerful Caribbean citizens as published Wikileaks documents in the Jamaican Gleaner have shown in recent weeks.

Down south in fellow Caribbean trade bloc nation, Guyana, several cabinet ministers, top security officials and business leaders have had similar action taken against them in the past decade.

The list includes Ronald Gajraj and Clement Rohee, former and current national security ministers, Floyd McDonald, a retired police chief and the incumbent head of the force Commissioner Henry Greene.

Officials in Guyana are also nervous about alleged sealed indictments because of links to narco trafficking, alien smuggling and close association with private hit squads. Word usually leaks out when airlines are informed about their inability to travel.

Prime Minister Golding in the meantime has instructed Foreign Minister Ken Baugh to approach American Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater for talks on the general issue of visa revocation and specifically about Robertson’s.

Information Minister Daryl Vaz confirmed the plan to approach the U.S. envoy saying authorities want to clarify certain issues.

“The prime minister, who was officially informed last Friday, May 20, has instructed the foreign affairs minister to meet with the U.S. ambassador to seek further information and particulars in relation to this matter. When something like this happens, over which you have no control, obviously, you are forced to act immediately because you have a responsibility and the government has a responsibility and, of course, this is a special ministry, especially at a time like this,” Vaz told reporters.

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