Georgetown, Guyana - (September 11, 2019) Minister of Citizenship, Mr. Winston Felix, this afternoon, said the newscast aired by MTV News Update on August 31, 2019, claiming that African nationals were promised citizenship in exchange for votes is “completely false and libellous”.
The Minister, at a press conference held today to address the issue, said he has since lodged complaints with the relevant authorities and is seeking legal advice, with the view of filing a libel suit.
Minister Felix said the broadcast, which aired on Channel 65, can also be found on YouTube under the caption, “The PNC plans got busted”. The news report, falsely, said that a number of illegal foreigners from countries in Africa were promised their citizenship in exchange for votes and that the foreigners were invited to a meeting on Wednesday, August 28, 2019 where they were promised assistance with their citizenship status. The report also falsely claimed that the foreigners confirmed that they received citizenship; that the foreigners were advised that they should register and vote for APNU/AFC; that the foreign students were promised to have their tuition fees paid once they voted for APNU/AFC and that a promise was made to a man involved in an alleged fake marriage scam that an ongoing police investigation will be discontinued.
Minister Felix asserted that these statements are patently false and that they were “designed to tarnish the good image and reputation of the APNU/AFC Government”. He also noted that no efforts were made to contact him to verify the claims prior to the broadcast, instead the publishers of the newscast aired a report that was devoid of facts. As such, Minister Felix asserted that the false report should be withdrawn and an apology issued.
“This culture of mendacity displayed by the newscast in their attempt to sully the image of Government Ministers must be exposed for what it is. I consider this untruthful news broadcast to be an attack on my character and libellous,” he emphasized.
Explaining how he came to meet with the group of African nationals, Minister Felix said that the Deputy Director of the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA), Mr. Aubrey Heath-Retemyer whom he has known since the early 1980s, informed him that there were some African nationals “who have issues with the staff downstairs in my Department”.
In response, a meeting was arranged to listen to their concerns and offer redress where necessary. This meeting was held on August 28, 2019 at 20:00 hours at the Critchlow Labour College, Woolford Avenue. Initially, 19 persons were present and as the meeting progressed others “trickled in”.
Minister Felix told the press conference that the foreigners spoke openly and the matters raised pertained to the lengthy period involved in the finalisation of citizenship applications. They also spoke of long delays in resolving applications for citizenship by marriage. Additionally, one man reported that he is married to a Guyanese and his application was with the Police; one foreign student enquired about her Extension of Stay in Guyana since she has had some challenges with regard to her tuition fees, and a man who said he represented other persons seeking Employment Visas, raised his concerns.
The applications for Employment Visas were not dealt with because the persons involved did not have the status deserving consideration, Minister Felix noted.
The student, he informed, was told that this was a separate issue which cannot be dealt with, while consideration of the other matters was deferred to the following day, August 29, 2019, at 14:30 hrs. That meeting was held at the Department of Citizenship, by which time the staff was in possession of all files relevant to the matters that were raised.
In responding to questions from the media, Minister Felix clarified that he thought it best to meet the persons outside of his Ministry given the type of allegations that were being peddled.
“When complaints as wide of those are made against staff, it’s better to hold it somewhere else first because coming here they might be afraid; they have to pass and come upstairs [and] they may not want to and so the information you would get to correct deficiencies in the Department might be withheld,” he said.
Minister Felix added that he felt comfortable with the foreigners visiting the office “after the matter were trashed out and I was sure about what I’m dealing with. At that [earlier] stage I was not sure what I was dealing with”.
He reiterated that despite the libellous claims, the APNU+AFC Government stands firm on its decision to have a credible list as the basis on which General and Regional Elections in Guyana will be conducted. “I would not get involved in any disdainful act as suggested by MTV News Update to secure votes for the APNU+AFC Coalition in exchange for citizenship for any foreign National residing in this country,” he assured.