Letters to the Editor

Life does not begin nor end with a US visa

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

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Dear Editor,

Once again the country is sent chattering about the latest episode in our soap opera 'As Jamaica Turns' with the revocation of US visas for two prominent Jamaicans.

The truth be told, the US Embassy pulls visas regularly for many ordinary Jamaicans. The US Government has long ago weaponised the issuance and retention of a non-immigrant visa. The average person seeking to visit Disney World or relatives, after being so brainwashed that the American Dream is there to be had by simply showing up in America, would understandably be quite disheartened by the likelihood of a visa withdrawal. Globalisation, widespread Internet availability, and Netflix have really made having a US visa not the prerequisite that it once was for economic advancement.

The question Jamaicans need to ask is: Do our leaders need to have a US visa? Is a US visa a requirement for your ability to function effectively as a minister of Government?

I think the political class and the senior public sector travel too much under the disguise of working. They never see a conference they don't wish to attend and always seem ready to adopt someone else's best practice as the best idea they can suggest. When they attend the next conference they can receive cheap applause for having bought into the overseas vision and most likely the consultants willing to take hard currency to implement.

Now, the US does not discuss individual visa issues, but somehow it always seems to become public. Henry Kissinger's famous quote “America does not have friends, America has interests” needs to be in the mind of all globally. The abandoned Kurds would have expected a different result if they understood this when Donald Trump pursued those interests with Turkey.

America's interests are also economic, and don't be nave, the Chinese presence in Jamaica and all purchases Chinese are a consideration of the USA. The current president of the US has made 5G a battleground, and probably rightfully so.

No public person would want to lose their permission to travel to the US. And, the no comment policy by the US Embassy is understandable. But the information vacuum leaves many to speculate and fill in gaps with almost always negative rumours.

The 'crab in a barrel' mentality that seems to infuse us is better fodder than the stuff movies are made of in Hollywood or Bollywood, or now Atlanta. It's as if we are a nation of criminals hoping never to be found out, and if someone else is caught we go from a feeling of shock to gratitude and relief that it's not me caught in the spotlight this time and I do not intend to say a word. We are prepared to use all the Jamaican stereotypes, and it's so easy to sell it, especially to embassy staff.

Life does not begin nor end with a US visa to travel to or visit. Let's face it, you can't work on that type of visa. The real value back in the day, and even now, is to “run off”, which just made it really hard for the rest of us. So this value is a hold over because the J Visa gives a better opportunity and is fairly widely accessed by many here.

So what do we have here in Jamaica, some politicians whose visas were revoked and their opponents would love the mileage in the same way Rudy Giuliani would love to get mileage on Hunter Biden and his father, former Vice-President Joe Biden, even if they had to resort to extortion to get or manufacture it.

Here, the US Embassy has quite deftly pulled visas for a senior member of each major political party and therefore cannot be accused of favouring either side.

Daryl Vaz and Phillip Paulwell come from different economic worlds, but they both have made significant contributions to Jamaica's development. They have served this country, unlike most of the critics that are about to line up.

The so-called policemen that have been accused, I suppose of illegally taking the law into their own hands and dealing with some gunmen as the average Jamaican would probably support if asked quietly, have also served Jamaica even if in one area they may have gone too far.

My suggestion, let's for once ignore the US and her pulling-visa tactic, let us not join them in trashing our citizens. They have their axe grinding and it's not always as apparent what their true motive is. Politics and money are not above the US interests, and what we must never do is allow ourselves to be useful idiots or unwitting pawns in this chapter of 'As Jamaica Turns'.

Elliott Penn

St Andrew


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