Former PM Chaudhry’s passport seized
Labour Leader and former Prime Minister Mahendra
Chaudhry and his wife were this morning stopped
from travelling overseas
on their diplomatic passports.
Mr Chaudhry maintains he should be entitled to a diplomatic passport as a privilege accorded to former prime ministers. Mr and Mrs Chaudhry were issued diplomatic passports in May 1999 when he was elected prime minister and have ever since used it for their travels. In a statement issued after the morning’s debacle, Mr Chaudhry said:
“I was informed by the Manager Immigration at Nadi Airport that they had been instructed by the Foreign Affairs Ministry to confiscate our diplomatic passports as I was no longer a Minister and that this was a new policy.
I then contacted the Director of Immigration Mr Nemani Vuniwaqa who was sympathetic but said he was unable to assist as he was under orders to seize our passports.
I find the reasons now advanced by the officials unacceptable considering that I had notified both the Permanent Secretary for Defence, National Security and Immigration and Director Immigration in writing on 15 December 2014 of my intended travel and requested their facilitation.
The Permanent Secretary replied the next day saying that they were liaising with the Director Immigration to facilitate my request.
I was therefore, surprised at the new turn of events this morning as no one had ever before raised the issue of the use of diplomatic passports by us.
I think there is more to it than the use of diplomatic passports. If such were indeed the case, common courtesy would have dictated that we be informed of this new policy with a request to return the passports.
This was not done. We were led to believe that our travel would be facilitated and then the blow was struck just before we were due to board the aircraft.
But again, in the first instance the Assistant Immigration Officer told me that I had been cleared to travel but that Mrs Chaudhry’s travel would have to be cleared by his superior officer.
We waited for almost 30 minutes before being advised that both of us could not travel on our diplomatic passports which they had instructions to confiscate from us.
I don’t know what games they are playing but it will certainly not deter me from getting to the bottom of this matter,” Mr Chaudhry said.
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