And at an immediate reaction, the US Embassy at Marli Street, Port-of-Spain contacted Government officials requesting an explanation for the treatment meted out to Campbell.
Embassy public affairs officer Matthew Cassetta told Newsday: “We have already contacted the (TT) 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.”
Cassetta revealed that the US Embassy was at no point contacted during the deportation process for Campbell - an exercise lasting approximately eight hours.
Cassetta said the Embassy recognised TT’s sovereign rights but was monitoring the situation. “I do hope we are able to clarify it a bit more,” he said.
Campbell was a week ago announced by UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar as the head of the party’s campaign strategy team for the May 24 snap general election.
Contacted yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said the incident will not have a negative impact on TT’s longstanding diplomatic relations with the United States. While specifics of the matter are being addressed by the National Security Ministry, Gopee-Scoon said, this country’s relations with the US are “state to state” and not between state and an individual.
Gopee-Scoon said as far as she knew, Campbell was a US citizen in the country in a private capacity. She said she was certain there were good reasons why Campbell was deported and did not think it was related to the general election.
In a strongly worded release yesterday, Persad-Bissessar condemned what she termed “an abuse of power” and “an act of political victimisation” of the opposition party and the harassment of a US citizen whose firm conducts similar political work around the world.
“While Calder Hart, a citizen of Canada and the former chairman of Udecott, who is the subject of a criminal probe by police, is allowed to go freely and taken through the VIP channels upon his last entry to this island, the political strategist employed by the UNC, Bernie Campbell, a citizen of the US, was denied entry into TT by the Immigration authorities and escorted by security guards back on a flight leaving this morning,” Persad-Bissessar said in the release.
Giving an account of the incident, Persad-Bissessar said Campbell arrived on American Airlines Flight 1819 and upon presentation of his travel documents, was told he was denied entry on advisement of the National Security Minister, Martin Joseph who incidentally, is the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) chairman. Campbell was given a document which pertained to his denial of entry, which he declined to sign, and was left standing in what had become an empty terminal, for over one hour.
Persad-Bissessar continued in her statement: “Eventually he was informed that he would be taken by security to a hotel nearby and then brought to the airport in the morning (today) to be placed on the American Airlines flight scheduled for departure at that time.”
After Campbell left the airport in a security vehicle, Persad-Bissessar claimed, that vehicle was intercepted en route to the hotel by an unmarked car containing persons unknown and the security official with Campbell was questioned by two men. The security official informed Campbell that he was unaware as to who the men who intercepted the vehicle were and advised he (Campbell) would be safer at the airport. Campbell was taken back to the airport by the security official where he (Campbell) stayed until his departure. Campbell was escorted by airport security on board American Airlines flight 1818 at 7 am yesterday.
“The team said they have never been subjected to any rejection from any of the countries visited before and were surprised by the experience encountered here. My party and I condemn the high handed authoritarian display perpetrated by the Manning administration upon the legitimate democratic exercise of the party in conducting its election campaign,” Persad-Bissessar said. (SEE PAGE 5)
She added that as a result of this incident: “Members of the Obama team employed by the UNC, left the island this morning and due to the harassment of their colleague, will not be returning. They have, however, confirmed that the work will be conducted on the UNC campaign from the United States.”
“This will however only serve to strengthen the resolve of all concerned and the electorate will be the ultimate judge of the dictatorial behaviour that typifies the Patrick Manning administration. The UNC sees the denial of entry of Mr Campbell as an international outrage and scandal which will be reported negatively across all diplomatic channels and via international media networks worldwide,” Persad-Bissessar declared.
This statement was confirmed by a story on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Caribbean News website last night, which ran a story in its “Caribbean Briefs” section, headlined: “US strategist refused entry.” Also, major American news agency CNN (Cable Network News) reported the story in its “CNN iReport” section.
Persad-Bissessar said the UNC extends its sincerest regrets to Campbell and his firm AKPD over this incident and pledged to issue, “a formal, official apology to him and the people of the United States on May 25, when the party forms the government, on behalf of all our citizens who value the cordial and close relationship.”
Campbell arrived in Trinidad shortly before 11 pm on Thursday night on an American Airlines flight and was told by Immigration officials that they had information he had no work permit and informed him that he was being deported to the United States. UNC sources confirmed yesterday that Campbell did not have a work permit.
Sources revealed that an Immigration officer who saw Campbell being detained contacted a UNC official who alerted Persad-Bissessar. She then in turn, sought the guidance of attorney Anand Ramlogan, who was at the time attending a prayer session, for Persad-Bissessar, at her Siparia constituency office.
Yesterday, National Security Minister Martin Joseph issued a press release which stated that contrary to media reports no deportation order was issued or signed by him or an Immigration Officer.
“Rather, Mr Henry Bernard Campbell, a citizen of the United States of America, was denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago in accordance with Section 8 (1) (q) of the Immigration Act, Chapter 18:01.”
This part of the Act states, “Any person who from information or advice which in the opinion of the Minister is reliable information or advice is likely to be an undesirable inhabitant of, or visitor to Trinidad and Tobago.”
However, despite this denial from Minister Joseph that he had anything to do with the deportation of Campbell, attorney Anand Ramlogan disputed this.
“Mrs Persad-Bissessar sought my intervention and I immediately contacted the Immigration Department and spoke with the officer in charge, Mr Piper, who informed me that the Immigration Department had little or no role or say or choice in the matter, as they were acting pursuant to a directive and instruction from the Minister of National Security.
“I enquired on what basis Mr Campbell was being denied entry and was told that Mr Joseph had invoked Section 8 (1) (q) of the Immigration Act, which allows him to deny entry to any person who is deemed to be an undesirable inhabitant. This is an archaic decision that is often utilised when there is a threat to national security.
“It obviously flies in the face of what we were told by the Immigration officer/supervisor who was on duty at the time. It is clear that this is an act of political victimisation and discrimination, because the PNM is utilising state funds to bombard us with their propaganda through advertisements from ministries and state enterprises blowing their own trumpet.
“I have advised the (UNC) leader to challenge this decision in court, but she has decided against it because she feels it is a trap set by the PNM to distract us from the (election) campaign,” Ramlogan said.
Ramlogan who has filed nomination papers to contest the Tabaquite constituency on a UNC coalition ticket, pointed out that in any event, now that the partnership and coalition of opposition forces has been realised, it will act as a political catalyst and generate a momentum of its own so that little or no external help is now required.
“The finish line is fast approaching and this act shows how desperate the PNM is. We have decided to retain a new political consultant, who will guarantee election victory for us, and that is Prime Minister Patrick Manning,” Ramlogan said.
Campbell, described as a veteran consultant was in Trinidad earlier this month and revealed that election strategies are being pushed forward and moved up to make Persad-Bissessar the next Prime Minister.
Campbell who was a key strategist in the election campaign for then US Senator Barack Obama in his push for the US Presidency, worked for the UNC via Ross Advertising.