David Patterson, opposition MP of Guyana. (Image credits: Google images)

Opposition MP David Patterson banned from leaving Guyana

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Guyana’s opposition legislator, David Patterson was set to leave the country for a meeting with United States law makers and had cleared Customs and Immigration, when he was stopped by an immigration officer.

Patterson was on his way to discuss the political and economic situation in Guyana with US law makers, which in his opinion, is an important step in diplomacy and transparency.

David Patterson happens to be a parliamentarian with A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC). He was approached in the departure lounge by said immigration officer and informed of the fact that he did not have permission to leave.

Patterson has also served formerly as the Minister of Public Infrastructure and spoke to an online publication regarding the matter.

In a statement that Patterson gave to Demerara Wave Online News, he stated the following, “that Immigration made a mistake in allowing me to proceed” and that “there was a no-fly order on me in their system, and asked that I accompany them to speak to the officer on duty”.

Patterson was quick to praise the immigration officers, who he said were “very apologetic and courteous” but said that the instructions had come from “town”. This was a signal that the instruction had originated from the government’s end.

Patterson then approached his attorney, Nigel Hughes, who spoke on his behalf to immigration officials. He was informed that there was no court order in place that blocked Patterson from leaving the country. In fact, they stated that someone had placed “a note in the system” which was causing the hinderance.

As is obvious, the nature of these occurrences has caused a certain degree of debate surrounding the chain of events. In response to this action, attorney Nigel Hughes has stated that he will be filing “Legal Proceedings” to tackle the issue.

Hughes also delineated to his client that there were several court ruling and legal provisions which protect individuals from being denied the right to travel with out an expressed court order.

Patterson was held previously under the Sexual Offenses Act on the charges of allegedly exposing his genitals. He was released on the 28th of July, 2023 after posting a bail amount of GYD$750,000. Since his arraignment in this particular case, this was the first time that he attempted to leave the country.

Patterson was slated to join the opposition leader Aubrey Norton’s APNU+AFC delegation, travelling to Washington. This delegation was scheduled to sit with the Congressional Black Caucus on Wednesday. The caucus includes Democratic Minority Leader, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.

The APNU+AFC alliance gave a joint statement which said the following, “The meeting with Mr Jeffries and his team is expected to focus on the opportunities and challenges confronting Guyana and on how political stakeholders in the country can work together to ensure that all Guyanese citizens, regardless of race or ethnicity, benefit from the country’s oil wealth.”

The Congressional Black Caucus, including Mr Jeffries and other American decision makers were briefed by President Irfaan Ali and his team earlier this month when they travelled to the United States on a diplomatic mission.

This process is being followed with the express purpose of understanding the economic and political status of Guyana, from the perspectives of both the opposition and the incumbent government. This is done to gain a holistic view of the economic and geopolitical intricacies of the nation.

The travel block on a member of the opposition delegation can be seen as a questionable move by some. Regardless of the public perception surrounding David Patterson’s recent legal troubles, it is still curious that the government decided to block his visit with out a court order, a decision which brings the whole endeavor into question.

Having said that, it is possible that the travel ban stands due to the allegations that Patterson was held for earlier this year. In that case, it would serve the government and related authorities well if they were to publicly clarify their position and the subsequent decision.