HEAD of the State-run Urban Development Corporation and the Jamaica Employers' Federation, Wayne Chen, was severely embarrassed when he turned up with his family at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston on Wednesday and was informed by local immigration officials that his United States visitor's visa was cancelled.
Chen, who was travelling to a business meeting in Los Angeles, California with his family, expressed shock and surprise at the move by the US Government. The trip, he said, was to continue work on a project involving business retailers from several countries.
"It has really taken me by surprise as I have been travelling freely to the United States for 30-odd years," Chen told the Observer yesterday.
He said he was informed by local immigration staff that they had received a call from the US immigration authorities that the visa was cancelled. As a result, Chen's family decided to cancel their trip.
"I am taken aback. On leaving the airport I called the Jamaican ambassador in Washington. My wife also called the Consul General (at the US Embassy in St Andrew), who told her they had no reason why but confirmed that it was cancelled a month ago," he said.
He said he was at a loss as to the reason the US authorities had decided to place a restriction on his ability to travel to that country.
"I have been a public figure in this country for 15 years. It is really distressing to know that my visa has been cancelled without notice," he said. "I can't imagine a reason why. I was at the US Embassy some weeks ago looking about a visa for a family member and I presented my passport and I was not informed of the cancellation."
Chen -- whose SuperPlus chain of supermarkets posted sales of $2 billion in 1998, making it the second largest retailer in the island at the time -- said the wasted money spent on airline tickets for himself and his family was the least of his worries at this time.
"This is being taken up at the highest diplomatic level. I have already spoken to the prime minister and it is being looked into by the Jamaican ambassador in Washington and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," he told the Observer yesterday. "I am now writing to the head of the US mission here to get an explanation."
A number of Chen's supermarkets are now closed, ending what was once the largest locally owned retail outlet business in Jamaica.