Sat | Oct 31, 2020

Vaz safe? - PM carefully weighs minister's US visa troubles

Published:Friday | February 28, 2020 | 12:28 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter
Prime Minister Andrew Holness responding to a question from a Gleaner news team on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness responding to a question from a Gleaner news team on Tuesday.

Daryl Vaz’s Cabinet post remains safe for now as Prime Minister Andrew Holness continues to “carefully” weigh issues surrounding the revocation of his United States (US) visa.

In a statement last November, the US Embassy in Kingston revealed that the action had been taken against Vaz, who has ministerial responsibility for job creation, land, the environment, and climate change in the Jamaica Labour Party government.

Since then, Vaz has also confirmed that the non-immigrant US visa held by his wife, Ann-Marie, who is the member of parliament for Portland Eastern, had expired and was not renewed. Her diplomatic visa was also revoked.

But neither Vaz nor the US authorities gave any reasons for the action taken against him.

Asked to comment on the issue this week, Holness was careful to point out that there are a “multiplicity of reasons” why any travel permit is withdrawn.

And when asked specifically whether Vaz would remain in his Cabinet, both now and possibly after the pending general election, the Jamaican prime minister said there was more to consider than whether the Portland Western MP’s US visa was valid.

“Therefore, the question is: Should a prime minister deny someone who legitimately deserves to be a minister that opportunity because he or she does not possess the visa of a foreign country?” Holness said during an exclusive interview with The Gleaner at Jamaica House in St Andrew on Tuesday.

“I am carefully thinking about it,” he added, while insisting that an individual who “legitimately deserves” to be appointed to the Cabinet should not be ruled out solely because they do not have a foreign travel permit.

“It could always be the case that a [foreign] country could have control over the structure of your Cabinet, so I have to think about these things very carefully,” he stressed. “That is a consideration that has to be carefully thought through.”

Daryl Vaz is the second Jamaican Cabinet minister in the past decade to have his US visa revoked. In 2011, then energy minister James Robertson was stripped of his visa.

Late last year, the US also revoked the visa of Phillip Paulwell, a former Cabinet minister in the last Portia Simpson-Miller-led Government and a vice-president of the main parliamentary Opposition, the People’s National Party. The US has also not given any reason for its action in this case.

However, in confirming the revocation of his US visa, Vaz had indicated that he was prepared to step down as minister if it were not restored on appeal.

In mid-November last year, he told The Gleaner that the loss of his US visa had not affected his performance and that it was too early to talk about demitting office.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com