GEORGETOWN, Mar. 22, CMC – Guyana’s foreign ministry has said a Guyanese resident mentioned in Dutch and French St. Martin media as the contact person for issuing machine-ready Guyana passports in the island territory was not authorised to do so, media reports here said.
The St Maarten Today newspaper published a letter it obtained that stressed that the Guyanese honorary consulate in St Kitts was the nearest place to which requests for Guyanese travel documents could be sent.
The passports carry biometric data which contain computer-readable information on the bearer and are intended to foil counterfeiters.
The March 19 letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Georgetown was despatched to St Maarten’s Ministry of General Affairs which has direct responsibility for the Directorate of Foreign Relations. The report was picked up by the independent Demerara Waves online news service, which confirmed the foreign ministry’s denial, and the state-owned National Communications Network (NCN).
“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 letter follows an article carried in a website on St Maarten/St.Martin, a joint French and Dutch territory. The story said Douglas was available locally to handle passport requests and urged Guyanese there “not to take any risks sending their passport to consulates outside of St. Maarten since they will have to pay additional shipping fees.
The story continued: “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.
In Georgetown, the Demerara Waves quoted a foreign ministry official as declaring the St Maarten report “inflammatory, misleading and irresponsible”.
Demerara Waves said Guyanese residents in St Maarten had begun to question Douglas’s authorisation to handle consular matters.
Guyana is among several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member nations to issue a uniform passport that carries biometric data, security features and the CARICOM emblem on the cover.
Last month, Georgetown implemented a system to issue the new machine-readable passports through its embassies, high commissions and consulates.
Demerara Waves said Guyana’s Honorary Consul in St. Kitts and Nevis, Stanford Conway, is expected in St. Maarten soon to process applications for Guyanese residing here.
Douglas told the website she would issue a public statement after discussions with Guyanese officials and declined further comment.