No evidence has been unearthed substantiating the Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Daryl Vaz is a drug trafficker or abetted or partook in illicit activity.
It is well known that in 2019, the United States (US) revoked Vaz’s visa and at that time did not venture an explanation. This set off a storm of speculation that has persisted until today.
Last week it was revealed that Vaz has been granted a reprieve of sorts, a one-year visa with the 212 (SMALL D (3) (A) Waiver of 212 (A) (2C) (1) annotation which in effect is a scarlet letter.
This is a stigma that the US government has attributed to Vaz and it has not explained or provided evidence as to why. This makes life difficult for the ebullient Government minister and adds to the litany of controversies that continue to follow him.
The opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has called on Vaz to explain why the Americans took away his visa and why was it now regranted to him, albeit with a flagged component. It is demanding he resign from the Cabinet if he should fail to do so.
The PNP statement read: “Mr Vaz is a sitting member of the Cabinet and the need for this waiver raises immediate concerns which must be addressed as it indicates that the consular officer has no reason to believe that Mr Vaz is associated with drug trafficking.
“While we understand that the visa revocation under this section of the US immigration law does not rise to the standard of proven guilt in wrongdoing, Mr Vaz must clarify for the people of Jamaica what circumstances have given reason to believe he has been associated with drug trafficking, leading to the need for this specific waiver.”
The PNP does see an opportunity here to place Mr Vaz on the hook and further embarrass the Government which is currently discombobulated by scandals. Daryl Vaz is indeed batting on a sticky wicket and the ball is zipping around his ears.
But it is not incumbent on him to give this explanation – that should come from the US Embassy located in Kingston. Its government took the action it did for a reason that it alone is privy to. For all one knows, Mr Vaz, unbeknownst to him, was standing next to a fella with some ‘Charlie’ in his pocket and so it was concluded that he was associated with a drug trafficker.
It is the US that has placed Daryl Vaz under this cloud of suspicion and it should remove it, if it transpires he did nothing to merit taking away his visa.
The game of politics is a blood sport and the Opposition do smell blood and think it has Vaz by the ‘short and curlies’.
It is another spot of bother for Andrew Holness and his Government and it raises questions yet again about the probity of the operatives of his Government. Holness may well think that Mr Vaz should keep calm and carry on and that this too will dissipate as another issue comes to the top of the news cycle. Why lose a Cabinet member who gets things done, particularly during a time of crisis?
Be that as it may, there are some serious underlying issues here, more notably the value a US visa has to Jamaicans and how it has become the ultimate currency. Every Jamaican is covetous of a US visa with many eager to leave the country of their birth for a life in the land of the free and the home of the brave. There can be little doubt that this is a repudiation of life in Jamaica for greener pastures.
Knowing this, the US government can use diplomatic levers to determine the status of Jamaicans deemed fit or unfit and the US can do so arbitrarily. It is what it is.
Former Jamaican prime minister, the always astute and perceptive Bruce Golding, noted this, the ability to confer and withdraw status with no discernable explanation and the bind this now places Daryl Vaz in.
Golding is reported to have said: “I don’t have much faith in the US government’s consideration when it comes to visas. It’s used as a political tool and it may have nothing to do with any substantive facts.”
Right now, Mr Vaz’s visa situation is a mystery, a ‘Murder She Wrote’ saga that only the US can solve and provide the answers to. As a Government minister, Mr Vaz must simply get on with it, hoping the US will graciously absolve him and set the record straight.
Far more eyebrow-raising are the pronouncements by former US Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia, via the conduit of Nationwide News. These have precarious consequences for American/Jamaican diplomatic relations.
A Donald Trump appointee, Tapia declared his own government erred when it took away Daryl Vaz’s visa and did so falling prey to rumours. He then went on to slam the US Embassy for bungling the management of the situation.
Overreaching himself, Mr Tapia then points the finger at Peter Bunting, claiming that as Minister of National Security, he asked the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) to investigate Mr Vaz.
This is worrisome and not behaviour becoming an American, or for that matter any ambassador. It is clear that Mr Tapia is in Daryl Vaz’s corner and his objectivity and neutrality has gone out of the window. He is prepared to admonish his own country and government for its part in this sorry affair.
Mr Bunting issued a forthright statement and should not be embroiled in this debacle. It read: “I categorically deny all accusations regarding my role as minister of national security in the revocation of Minister Daryl Vaz’s visa by the United States.
“The revocation of Mr Vaz’s visa continues to engage serious issues as it relates to integrity in public life and opportunity touching on matters related or even involving narcotics trafficking. This matter cannot and should not be resolved in the realm of gossip and speculation.”
Quite right, Peter Bunting!
By invoking Mr Bunting and surreptitiously injecting political brinkmanship, this serves as a tactic of obfuscation and pinning a black hat on Mr Bunting.
TAPIA HAS CONCOCTED A NARRATIVE THAT NEVER EXISTED
Both the Major Organised Crime & Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) and current Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang have rejected and repudiated Mr Tapia’s claims.
Mr Tapia is a old man and his powers of recall may be suspect. He has concocted a narrative that never existed; what in Jamaican parlance is called ‘Anansi story’.
I’ll go there; what we in London call, ‘Pure Jackanory’.
Mr Tapia has been loose-lipped many times before. Not too long ago he declared with no evidence that the Chinese were using the telecoms companies to spy on Jamaicans.
How can we ever forget this nugget: “You either have to look to the East to the two-headed dragon, or you’re gonna have to look to the North. It’s a decision your Government will have to make.”
Can any Jamaican government in good conscience ever trust a US ambassador again or rely on that nation’s top diplomat in the country to keep confidences?
With Mr Tapia inflaming the Vaz situation and spilling his guts unmuzzled, any government in the world would be wary of such a likely outcome. Mr Tapia creates a problem at a time when US primacy is being questioned.
Mr Tapia thinks he is helping Mr Vaz, but he is hurting him. How can he really help? By getting his country to give clear reasons why it took away a leading Jamaican Government minister’s visa and explaining why this trafficking annotation is now stamped in his passport.
If Daryl Vaz committed no wrongful act, then come out and say so. Do not allow the sword of Damocles to hang over his head.