Patterson rejects Police apology over travel blacklisting

Patterson rejects Police apology over travel blacklisting

Opposition Member of Parliament David Patterson has refused to accept the apology issued to him by the Guyana Police Force, after the Force admitted that his name had been “mistakenly” left on a travel blacklist at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport.

The Opposition MP and former Government Minister was on his way to Washington on Tuesday night for a Wednesday meeting with a group of US Congressional representatives when he was told by Immigration Officers at the airport that he cannot leave the country since his name was flagged in their system.

The Guyana Police Force, which overlooks the Immigration Department, later issued an apology while indicating that Mr. Patterson’s name was placed on a watchlist in July as he was under investigation for indecent exposure, and his name was mistakenly left on the list. The Force said his name has since been removed from the list.

But the Opposition legislator has since told his Attorneys to file Court action against the Government and the Police Force over the breach of his right to free movement.

In an interview, Mr. Patterson said the apology issued by the Police Force amounts to “nonsense” that he will not accept.

“It is political, and I found the statement by the Commissioner of Police as total nonsense and I think it is an insult to Guyanese and an insult to the rule of law”, he said.

In a case filed by Police Woman Superintendent Marcelene Washington in 2022 after she was prevented from leaving the country owing to a criminal matter in the Court, High Court Judge Navendra Singh ruled that the Guyana Police Force has no authority block anyone from leaving the country.

In that case, the Judge said the Police Force had misdirected itself by blocking the Officer from leaving the country, adding that the Force cannot restrict the movement of any person around or out of Guyana unless such restriction is provided for in the laws of Guyana or is pursuant to an order of the Court.

In Mr. Patterson’s case there is no Court order blocking his departure from Guyana. He is convinced that the illegal move was orchestrated by the Government and enforced by a “politicised” Police Force.

“For the Commissioner of Police to offer an excuse that it was a mistake and they will take it off, just once again he is showing that he does not understand the role of the Police Commissioner or the laws and the constitution that he swore to uphold. If his excuse is that they mistakenly not removed something that is illegal and that’s the excuse for the Police Force”, he said.

The Government has been pilloried by the Opposition over the blacklisting of the Opposition MP.

In a statement Opposition MP and former Magistrate Geeta Chandan-Edmond said the situation has revealed that the Guyana Government has affirmed the view that “political persecution and the cracking down on their political opponents is alive and real in a dangerous way”.

 She said there should be little doubt that “this directive proceeded from the highest levels of government and was surreptitiously whispered to junior functionaries of the Immigration Department”. 

Mr. Patterson was allowed to depart Guyana on Wednesday night and is expected to meet with the US Congressional Officials today, as his lawyers move ahead with Court action.

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