Guyana distances itself from suspected passport scammer in St Maarten

TODAY NEWSPAPER, GREAT BAY ST MAARTEN- March 22, 2012– The Guyana Government via its Ministry of Foreign Affairs has distanced itself from a recent media report in which resident Guyanese Diane Douglas is sited as the local contact person for the processing and issuance of biometric passports for nationals of the South American country.

An official letter sent to the Ministry of General Affairs which has direct responsibility for the Directorate of Foreign Relations, on March 19, reiterated the country’s position that it would respect St. Maarten’s laws and maintain its foreign policy. Requests for official documents such as passports should be done via Guyana’s embassies and consulates, the closest being in St. Kitts.

A copy of the official letter obtained by the Today Newspaper stated that “contrary to reports reaching this ministry, the government of Guyana has not authorized Ms. Dian Douglas to perform consular services, including the receipt of passport applications from Guyanese residents in St. Maarten. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to assure the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of St. Maarten that the Government of Guyana maintains high respect for the laws of St. Maarten.”

The article which drew the ire of the Guyana government was published on St. Martin News Network on Friday March 16. With the headline being ‘Guyanese on St. Maarten/St. Martin can Obtain Machine Readable Passports’. The report urged Guyanese to use the services available locally from Douglas and “not to take any risks sending their passport to consulates outside of St. Maarten since they will have to pay additional shipping fees. Consulates travelling to St. Maarten to provide the services will charge extra monies to applicants (and) are trying to exploit Guyanese living on St. Maarten/ St. Martin,” the article contended.

A source from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the report “inflammatory, misleading and irresponsible.” It also sparked outrage among Guyanese residing on the island and locals alike who commented “where are the docs from the Govt. of Guyana confirming this?” “These things should be channeled by an embassy and not an individual…leads me to believe Guyana is not taking foreign policy seriously,” another person commented.

When we first broke the story last week it stated that the Government of Guyana had recently implemented a system for Guyanese nationals living outside of the country to apply for Caricom machine-readable passports through their embassies, high commissions and consulates. The new system took effect in late February as a relief for Guyanese who typically had to travel to Guyana to process their passports. Honorary Consul in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis Stanford Conway is expected in St. Maarten soon to process applications for Guyanese residing here.

When contacted, Douglas declined to comment on the issue stating that she was currently in discussions with Guyanese officials and would issue a public statement at a later date. Since 2008, she has been assisting Guyanese by preparing applications for passport renewals out of the Horizon View Hotel to be sent to either the Antiguan consulate or the Passport Office in Georgetown.

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