Joseph’s rescission of an order his ministry said he issued under Section 8 (1) (q) of the Immigration Act, came as reports broke yesterday that the ruling PNM has now engaged the services of American consultants like Campbell to advise the party on its own campaign, even as it last week used the law to prevent Campbell from entering the country to continue work on the UNC’s election campaign. Campbell has been reported to have been part of a team that worked on the historic campaign which saw US president Barack Obama elected into office.
Joseph’s about-turn also came after UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in her capacity as Campbell’s attorney, wrote Joseph giving him a one-week deadline within which to explain his actions under the provisions of the Judicial Review Act which holds public officers into account.
She called Joseph’s rescission of his original order, “an attempt by the minister to put a plaster on a sore to do damage control” and argued that it was now clear that Campbell’s treatment was “really a blatant act of intimidation and harassment.”
Even as he announced that he had reversed his order, Joseph once more failed to give reasons for why he formed the view that Campbell was an “undesirable inhabitant” under Section 8 (1) (q) of the Act, thereby forcing Campbell’s abrupt deportation from the country last Friday.
Confronted by reporters at Balisier House, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, hours after a special meeting of Cabinet, Joseph said, “The ministry will now cancel the restricting order.”
“First of all it was quite clear that the circumstances under which Mr Campbell came into the country was not properly done,” he claimed. “What we have now done is we have now informed...his prospective employer about what it is they need to do in order to make sure that he can properly operate in the country. I expect that the prospective employer will do what is necessary.”
Asked why he had exercised his power to class Campbell as an “undesirable inhabitant”, Joseph said, “I indicated that the circumstances he came into the country were not strictly within the laws of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Pressed to explain which laws Campbell’s entry was not in conformity with and asked once more for the reasons why he classed Campbell as an undesirable inhabitant, Joseph said, “I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know anything about that!” In an interview with the Sunday Newsday last Saturday, the National Security Minister had also failed to give any reasons for the exercise of his specific powers under Section 8 (1) (q) of the Immigration Act, saying, “I don’t have to say that.” Section 8 (1) (q) of the Act bans, “any person who from information or advice which in the opinion of the Minister (of National Security) is likely to be an undesirable inhabitant of or visitor to Trinidad and Tobago.”
When word broke on Friday that Campbell was deported, the Ministry of National Security issued a press-release arguably down-playing the role of Joseph in the incident. The release stated that, “no...deportation order was issued or signed by the Minister of National Security or an immigration officer. Rather Mr Bernard Campbell...was denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago in accordance with Section 8 (1) (q) of the Immigration Act.” The release did not allude to the role of the minister under that section.
Hours after Joseph spoke with reporters yesterday, the Ministry of National Security issued yet another press release on the issue. This time, no mention was made of Section 8 (1) (q). Instead, the release argues that Campbell was denied entry because he declared that he came to Trinidad to do “business” as opposed to “work.”
There was speculation yesterday that Joseph’s about turn came after advice given by Attorney General John Jeremie to Cabinet yesterday over the issue. Jeremie did not respond to queries on the issue.
The US Embassy last week asked the Government for an explanation of the incident. But yesterday, the embassy’s public affairs specialist Alice Borrell declined comment. “The embassy will not discuss anything about this especially as it involves a private citizen. They are not commenting on it,” she said. However, it was reported that the US Embassy had been in contact with the Ministry of National Security on the matter.
Newsday yesterday learnt that the ruling PNM, like the UNC, has now engaged the services of American campaign strategists to give advice on their own campaign. The strategists were reported to have been booked into the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port-of-Spain up to this week, but were said to have changed hotels as word broke over the treatment of Campbell at the hands of the Government.
For its 2007 general election campaign, the PNM used the services of Jamaica-based American pollster Bill Johnson in a controversial candidate selection process.
Persad-Bissessar yesterday invoked Section 16 of the Judicial Review Act, giving Joseph one week to explain why Campbell was denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago last Friday, notwithstanding the decision of the ministry to now allow Campbell to return.