“Go to Immigration. Ent Sat Maharaj is your father. You ain’t need to work, yuh father carry the Government to court for the Trinity Cross and radio licence. Go let them fix it!”
This was what an Immigration officer reportedly told Vidya Maharaj when he enquired as to the reason(s) he was not being allowed to work in Trinidad and Tobago.
Maharaj, 51, is the son of Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Satnarayan Maharaj and is seeking the court’s intervention via a judicial review application to have the “employment not permitted” stamp, which is affixed to his passport, by the Chief Immigration Officer on March 18, 2008, deemed “illegal, null and void”.
Maharaj is also asking the court to enquire from Immigration authorities why he has been “flagged” by the Ministry of National Security.
Maharaj’s application was filed on Thursday at the Port of Spain High Court and names Chief Immigration Officer Keith Sampson as the respondent.
When the Sunday Express contacted the Immigration Office at Frederick Street, Port of Spain, this newspaper was told matters of individuals being “flagged” were confidential and cannot be disclosed to the public for security reasons.
Sources say individuals can be “flagged” for a number of reasons, including threats to national security.
In 2006, Jamaican dancehall artiste Mavado was banned from entering the country because of his violent lyrics.
That ban was subsequently lifted in 2011, when Mavado, whose real name is David Constantine Brooks, was allowed entry into the country to perform at a concert in Port of Spain.
Sources say individuals are “flagged” following thorough checks by Special Branch and other regional and foreign intelligence agencies.
In outlining his case, Maharaj said he was a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, “having attained said citizenship by virtue of descent”.
He said he was not given any reason for the placing of such a restriction in his passport and neither was he questioned by officials as to his citizenship or “entitlement to reside in Trinidad”.
Maharaj said shortly after arriving at the Piarco International Airport on March 19, 2008, an immigration officer stamped his passport with the words “employment not permitted”.
Maharaj said he drew this to the attention of the officer.
The officer, according to Maharaj, told him to seek the assistance of his father in having the stamp removed.
He said the decision taken by Immigration to deprive him of employment in T&T is irrational and unreasonable.
Maharaj, in his affidavit indicated he issued a pre-action protocol letter to Sampson, who caused Immigration Officer Balkissoon Singh to meet with him.
“At this meeting it was confirmed that the restriction would not be removed and that the reason for same was that of ‘national security’.”
On June 14 this year Maharaj said he again met with Singh and was told that the “employment not permitted” endorsement had been placed on the passport for reasons of national security.
In his application, Maharaj is also asking that the court quash the decision of the Chief Immigration Officer and a declaration that he be permitted to work in the country.