Home Letters Thorough investigation needed into Citizenship Dept
The alacrity with which the Department of Citizenship has responded to revelations of incorrect and therefore fraudulent notices of application for naturalisation as Guyanese citizens is surprising. Anyone who has had any dealing or transaction with any Government agency in our country knows of the sloth; it is legendary, a bureaucratic labyrinth from which it is painful to extract information and answers for any purpose.
The responses are themselves informative for what they say, as well as what is left out. “The Ministry would like to make it pellucid that all of the processes that the Department of Citizenship applies to applications for citizenship are enshrined in the Laws of Guyana – the Guyana Citizenship Act 1401”, and Minister Felix “requires the applicant for naturalisation to publish their applications for naturalisation in one of the daily newspapers. The department has nothing to do with what appears in the newspapers. If an error occurs in the publication, that is a problem for the newspapers and the applicant. They have to sort that out and clear up any error that may have occurred.”
The statement by the Minister of Citizenship seems to be at odds with that of his ministry, for the laws are clear with whom the responsibility for false statements lies, and what the penalties are:
Laws of Guyana Cap 14.01
Evidence: 13. (1) Every document purporting to be a notice, certificate, order or declaration, or an entry in a register or a subscription of an oath of allegiance, given, granted or made under this Act or under Chapter IV of the Constitution shall be received in evidence and shall, unless the contrary is proved, be deemed to have been given, granted or made on behalf of the person by whom or on whose behalf it has been given, granted or been made.
Offences: 14. (1) Any person who for the purpose of procuring anything to be done or not done under this Act or Chapter IV of the Constitution makes any statement to be false in a material particular, or recklessly makes a statement which is false in a material particular shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than twenty five thousand dollars nor more than fifty thousand dollars and imprisonment for six months.
Editor, was there an inquiry at the Department of Citizenship into the instances provided by the Leader of the Opposition? Did anyone pull these files and engage in close scrutiny of all documents provided? Was a biometric cross scan run to confirm no duplicity exists? From the Chronicle, answers, or should I say excuses, were quickly provided by the General Manager of the Guyana National Newspapers Limited, who blamed a ‘computer glitch’ for these ‘errors’. Given the glibness emanating from both entities, I would ask that an official Police investigation be launched into this affair. An inquiry not limited to the false notices, but to ascertain if indeed any effort was made at either entity to seek the truth.
In numerous years of using computers, I am yet to experience any of these fabled ‘glitches’, and I would ask who conducted this inquiry at the Department of Citizenship, and if there was a written report submitted. Computer systems have logs built into the software; surely we can access those and see what exactly caused these ‘glitches’, and also if there has been any access of these files in the Citizenship Department.
Given the concerns raised by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo about the digitisation of records and the ease with which excuses of ‘computer error’ are offered and accepted, a thorough investigation is of national importance.