Guyana police issues apology after shadow oil minister gets barred from travel to Washington

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The Guyana Police Force (GPF) has issued an apology after David Patterson, Member of Parliament (MP) for Guyana and the country’s shadow oil minister, was prevented from leaving Guyana to attend a meeting with the Black Congressional Caucus on Capitol Hill, Washington. This incident reportedly occurred on Tuesday September 26, 2023, despite a court order expressly permitting Patterson’s travel for business and professional reasons.

“Mr. Patterson’s name was placed on the watchlist in July 2023 during an ongoing investigation by the Police into accusation of indecent exposure,” the Force stated. “The Guyana Police Force has internal standard operating procedures (SOPs) to deal with such issues, and a full probe is underway by the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) as to why Mr Patterson’s name was not removed earlier from the list. Mr Patterson’s name has since been removed from the watchlist.”

According to law firm Hughes, Fields and Stoby, representing Patterson, he was stopped by Immigration officers at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport after clearing customs and immigration. The officers informed him that he was not allowed to travel due to “something in the system” that indicated he couldn’t leave the country, a release related.

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Hughes, Fields and Stoby swiftly engaged with the officers on behalf of their client, emphasizing that a magistrate, dealing with Patterson in relation to an indecent exposure charge, had recently allowed Patterson to travel, on the condition that he would attend his court hearings either in person or virtually. The firm said the officers attempted to contact the Head or Deputy Head of Immigration to resolve the matter. However, the efforts were in vain as they were unable to establish contact, and remained unchanged in their move to bar Patterson from traveling.

Patterson was scheduled to make presentations to the Congressional Black Caucus on Capitol Hill in the subsequent days. Following this event, he has instructed Hughes, Fields and Stoby to initiate constitutional proceedings for damages against the State, claiming a violation of his constitutional right to travel.

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In  subsequent statement, Patterson’s party, Alliance for Change (AFC), condemned the matter as “victimisation and discrimination”. 

“This act of preventing the free movement of a citizen is illegal, unconstitutional, and in the context of a 2023 world, downright barbaric,” the AFC stated. 

It called on President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali to  issue a public apology, and promised to issue complaints to the United States government, and the Secretariats of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Commonwealth of Nations. 

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