Inferring that Campbell was “likely to be an undesirable” through the invoking of Section 8 (1) of the Immigration Act, Chapter 18:01 may have been designed, inter alia, to hurt the image of Campbell, who is known internationally, and served as a key strategist in the election campaign for then US Senator Barack Obama in his successful bid for the Presidency of the United States.
We would like Minister Joseph to state yes or no whether, as alleged, the denial of entry to Campbell was an attempt by Government to adversely affect the UNC/COP Unity Accord campaign leading up to the scheduled May 24 General Election. Political Leader of the UNC, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, stated following on the rescinding order that the treatment of Campbell was “really a blatant act of intimidation and harassment”.
What strikes as particularly odd, however, is that the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) which the Accord is seeking to displace has, according to unconfirmed accounts, reportedly retained the services of American campaign strategists to advise on its own election campaign.
Was the rescinding of the Immigration Order by the National Security Minister an attempt by him, as Persad-Bissessar, has stated, “to do damage control”? Or had there been some degree of diplomatic pressure, overt or covert, exercised by the US Government?
It appears that the US Embassy in Port-of-Spain, which had originally insisted on an explanation, following on Campbell’s being denied entry to Trinidad and Tobago when he arrived on an American Airlines flight, had been, reportedly, in contact with the Ministry of National Security on the matter.
On Monday, however, the Embassy’s Public Affairs specialist, Alice Borrell, declined to comment on the rescinding order or on the incident per se. “The Embassy”, Borrell advised, “will not discuss anything about this especially as it involves a private citizen.” Monday’s articulated position, though, was in direct contrast to the one taken on Friday, April 23, by the Embassy’s Public Affairs Officer, Matthew Cassetta.
Cassetta, who had been approached by Newsday on the issue, had stated that the US Embassy had already contacted the (Trinidad and Tobago) Government on the matter for further information “and for, quite frankly, an explanation. We feel it was not very clearly articulated why Mr Campbell was deported. This is a very uncomfortable incident for the person involved and we are still trying to piece together what happened.”
The average Trinidadian and Tobagonian is perhaps, too, still trying to piece together what led to Campbell’s being officially denied entry. It was, clearly, a clumsy move by the Ministry of National Security which strikes as providing the United National Congress with a Public Relations plus. This, even while placing the Government of Trinidad and Tobago which must accept ultimate overall responsibility for the faux pas in a distinctly uncomfortable position.
In turn, it is difficult to divorce the political content from the initial denial of entry decision and subsequent order. If someone in the People’s National Movement Administration had hoped, originally, to deprive the United National Congress of Campbell’s ability to provide a hoped for planning and directing input into the Party’s General Election campaign, the plan has backfired miserably. In the process not merely the Government but the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago have been embarrassed.