U.S. seizure of Mae Thomas’ phone: President says ‘no motive, normal routine procedure’

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President Irfaan Ali, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, said he was informed that there was no motive for the seizure of a cell phone belonging to Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mae Toussaint Jr. Thomas, by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Miami International Airport recently.

Dr. Ali dismissed claims that there was an ongoing controversy surrounding the incident and it was a normal routine procedure.

He did not address reports that her US visitor’s visit was revoked but said reports of mistreatment will be addressed through the appropriate channels.

“It is part of how they execute their job, persons are asked to go for secondary (searches).

“Im told… there was no motive, it was a normal routine procedure,” Dr. Ali said.

He confirmed that Thomas Jr. was headed to China for training as part of a delegation from the governing People’s Progressive Party Civic and was not on official government duties.

He said the Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hugh Tood will engage the U.S authorities on the details of a report submitted by the PS.

“I was reading many cases and there are different rules that every country applies to people who travel. We have no difficulties.

“…any Guyanese who is mistreated in any way by anyone and reports such mistreatment there is a procedure through which we deal with it. In this case, a public office holder has given a statement of what transpired and it will be handled through the right procedure,” Dr. Ali added while speaking to journalists on the sideline of an event at his Shiv Chanderpaul Drive, Georgetown office on Wednesday.

Benn on Monday said Thomas will remain as his Ministry’s Permanent Secretary even as the authorities here try to determine why her phone was confiscated.

The Permanent Secretary arrived in Guyana last weekend but is not in office. He said replacing Thomas is not under consideration.

Thomas was allowed to continue her trip onwards to China but without her phone, a move that left Guyanese authorities puzzled since the phone likely contains sensitive information related to national security and foreign relations.

In a response to query from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the incident involving Thomas, the United States embassy in Georgetown on Friday said there was no specific information to share.

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