More visa relief for VazTuesday, September 28, 2021
The United States Embassy in Kingston has reportedly issued a five-year diplomatic visa to Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Daryl Vaz even as controversy swirls around an annotation implicating that he was suspected of being involved in the illegal drugs trade on the visitors' visa issued to him last week.
Jamaica Observer sources say Vaz was issued the diplomatic visa after he was selected by the US Embassy to lead an official delegation to an information communications technology (ICT) and cybersecurity consultation in Arizona early next month.
Minister of Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of National Security Matthew Samuda, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Aubyn Hill, and director general of the Planning Institute of Jamaica Dr Wayne Henry are expected to be part of the Jamaican team.
The trip is to be fully sponsored by the US Government and is expected to give the Jamaicans a look at the latest in ICT and cybersecurity developments.
Yesterday Vaz refused to comment on the reports reaching the Observer about the new five-year diplomatic visa and also declined to respond to a letter which surfaced over the weekend from former US Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia to more than 40 US senators urging them to right a wrong by restoring the visa of the Portland Western Member of Parliament.
“I have no further comment. I have fulfilled my commitment to the people of Jamaica to keep them up to date on any new developments regarding this visa matter. I have been open, transparent, and fulsome in my disclosure,” Vaz told the Observer.
In his August letter to 47 senators Tapia declared that a full investigation by local and American law enforcement agencies found no evidence that Vaz had any involvement or connection with illegal narcotics.
According to Tapia, shortly after he assumed duties in Jamaica he had been made aware of allegations linking Vaz to illegal drugs. He said on that basis it was decided that the visitors' visa issued to Vaz should be revoked.
Tapia said after the 2020 General Election he was approached by Prime Minister Andrew Holness who requested that his office review the allegations against Vaz.
“I agreed under the stipulation that the prime minister review all security and intelligence agencies under his control in regards to the minister. He assured me that a thorough background check would be conducted by the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Jamaica Defence Force and MOCA (Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency). After providing their findings to Prime Minister Holness it was found that the allegations were not factual,” said Tapia in his letter.
He said a similar probe conducted by US law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies found that “all reports were hearsay allegations with no substance or evidence”.
In his letter to the senators Tapia argued that the US was incorrect in revoking the visa issued to Vaz.
Tapia said it was his strong belief that the Consular Section and the US State Department made a mistake by revoking the visas held by Vaz and his wife Ann-Marie “based on circumstantial allegations and continued hearsay which were politically motivated”.
“It is clear that under my watch a mistake was made with the revocation of Minister Vaz's visa and it is my desire to right this wrong,” declared Tapia.