The Guyana Chronicle yesterday explained that a layout glitch was responsible for the errors in naturalisation notices that were highlighted by opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo as evidence of corruption and it said that corrective action was immediately taken.
“A mix-up in the computer system at the Advertising Department of the Guyana Chronicle was responsible for the incorrect names and photographs of persons seeking naturalisation status here being published recently,” a post appearing on the newspaper’s Facebook page said, while insisting that the errors were “genuine mistakes.”
During a press conference on Wednesday, Jagdeo accused the Department of Citizenship of “corruption” following the publication of the notices in which the same photograph of two applicants appeared on two different occasions but with different names and addresses.
He accused the Department of running a “people smuggling racket” with the aim of inserting the names of foreigners on the next voters’ list. He said, too, that the notices were discovered by Gail Teixeira and a team of party members who were conducting research in a bid to find evidence to support the corruption claim.
The Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP), in a press release issued yesterday, reiterated that the Citizenship Department plays no part in the publication of naturalisation notices and that as outlined in the Guyana Citizenship Act, the applicant bears that responsibility.
The first ad, which was published in the February 5th edition of the Guyana Chronicle newspaper, states that Gabriel St. Juste of Burma, Mahaicony was applying for naturalisation. A photograph was published alongside the notice. On February 7th, another notice with the same photograph was published but this time the applicant was identified as Daniel Garcia Farres, of 10-10 Norton Street, Cemetery Road, Georgetown.
In the second instance highlighted, a notice published in the March 27th edition of the newspaper identified Rubesh Abdus of Lot 0 Tabatinga, Lethem, in Region Nine as the applicant, but a notice on March 29th with the same photograph identified the applicant as Hajime Beltran Abreu, of Lot 39 Owen Street, Kitty.
Stabroek News verified that the notices with the same photographs but different particulars were indeed published.
Jagdeo also shared a notice in the name of Julio Antonio Beltran, which listed Abdus’ address as the place of residence.
According to the Chronicle article, the General Manager (Ag) of the Guyana National Newspapers Limited (GNNL) Donna Todd explained that the incorrect information published on the individuals seeking naturalisation in Guyana was corrected within the days immediately after they were first carried.
It was explained that on February 6th and 7th, 2019, a notice in the form of an advertisement bearing Farres’ name was published in the newspaper. That information was the correct version of another advertisement which was published on February 4th and 5th, 2019.
On the latter dates, the photograph of Farres was incorrectly placed next to the name Gabriel St Juste, of Mahaicony.
A similar mistake, it said, was made in March.
On March 29th and 30th, 2019, another naturalisation notice in Abreu’s name was published. The photograph of the individual seen in this ad was incorrectly published two days earlier next to the particulars of another individual.
That information was a correction of a similar advertisement which was published on March 27th, 2019, when Abreu’s information appeared next to the name Rubesh Abdus, of Tabatinga, Lethem.
The Chronicle Facebook post said the management of the GNNL disputes comments made by the opposition this week regarding the notices, while questioning how Jagdeo’s research team could have missed the corrected copies of the notices that were published.
“The GNNL management also noted that steps were immediately taken to ensure that there were no recurrence of such mistakes,” it said.
Given the initial concern that these applicants were committing fraud, Stabroek News visited the Georgetown addresses listed in the notices. At the Kitty address, a Cuban woman nodded her head in recognition when shown Beltran’s photograph. When shown the photograph of the other man who listed there as his address, she did not recognise him.
Persons living in close proximity to the house explained that the owner, who lives abroad, would normally rent her property. One woman said that the persons who come to stay there do not interact with persons in the community. She recognised Beltran when his photograph was shown to her. She recalled that recently she saw him in the yard and he raised his hand at her. She said he did not speak and she assumed that he did not know English. She did not recognise the other two men.
The Cemetery Road address was locked when this newspaper visited. A man working nearby said that recently two foreign nationals came to the work site. However, no one could understand what they were trying to say.
The MoTP, in its release, refuted what it called “libellous claims” about fraudulent immigration practices that were made by Jagdeo
“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 14:01,” it said.
According to the release, Minister of Citizenship Mr. Winston Felix, in explaining the procedure, said that it “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 Act sets out clearly the procedure that an applicant for naturalisation must follow. Under the heading, “Advertisement and submission of application,” it states that the applicant has to submit the filled application form and required fee along with two separate issues of any newspaper circulating in the district where he or she resides in which a notice for naturalisation was advertised. An applicant can be prosecuted for providing false information.
The MoTP added that the Guyana Chronicle has since acknowledged that it was an error on its part, which it later corrected.
“The Ministry therefore takes umbrage to Opposition Leader’s continuous spurious allegations and half-truths and urges him to first make checks before rushing to judgement,” it added.
Jagdeo, during his press conference, alleged that non-nationals are being given “fake” documents to influence house-to-house registration and said that what was found cannot “just be mistakes.”
According to Jagdeo, he had raised this citizenship issue before and now that the party has gathered evidence, he is hopeful that the International Organisation of Migration, which has an office in Guyana, will look into the matter.
“You have to go and look at the integrity of the entire system about this so call digitisation of our records… now it’s very suspect…because you can easily input anything that is not real,” he claimed while alleging that persons who are not citizens can be added.
He reiterated that the PPP has “grave” concerns about corruption given the number of people who are “passing through Guyana.” In this regard, he singled out Haitians and Venezuelans.
According to him, the PPP believes there is a people smuggling racket going on. “We believe that the bulk of the people are being smuggled through Guyana and that within the Department of Citizenship, there is an enormous cesspool of corruption. They are part of this people smuggling racket that is going on,” he charged.