The Minority Spokesperson on Constitutional, Parliamentary and Legal Affairs, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, has defended a decision by the United States Government to deny former Ghanaian Presidents access to protocol visas for unofficial travels.
Unlike several others who have condemned the action of the US, the Tamale Central MP believes there’s wrong with the decision.
“If a former president is going on his own matter, he has to appear before the Embassy staff. There is nothing wrong with this and it is not a slap in our face. If a former president is going on a personal matter and thinks that he will not want to use diplomatic channel to process his application, he would have to appear before them [US Embassy staff] and if it is strictly personal he would have to appear before them,” he said in an interview with Citi News’ Duke Mensah Opoku on Friday.
The US Ambassador, Robert P. Jackson, on Thursday told Ghanaian Parliamentarians that the US had withdrawn protocol visa allocation to top Ghanaian government officials, including Members of Parliament and former Presidents on non-official visits.
But Inusah Fuseini, who is also the Member of Parliament for the Tamale Central Constituency, said the move will make MPs more accountable.
“I basically think that, it’s not a cause of concern for Parliament because I think that what they [US] are trying to do is to make us more accountable and responsible, and also ensure that only people who have businesses transactions in their country obtain their visas. What used to happen was that, the fact that you are an MP and the fact that you were going on a personal business outside the country entitled you to apply through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and you will not appear before the Embassy staff to be assessed. Your visa was given on protocol, and that led to a lot of abuse,” he added.
Why the visa ban
Explaining his outfit’s position to members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament after an earlier letter informing Parliament about the decision, The US Ambassador, Jackson had explained that during protocol procedures, officials of the Embassy do not get to see the government officials applying for the visa since “no personal appearance is required so there is no reason for your parliamentary protocol officer to come to the Embassy whatever.”
“The normal channel will be for him to pass the visas and passport to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, and their protocol people will be permitted to come to the Embassy, and we will do everything we can to process those visas within 48 hours of receipt. If you are travelling for tourism or business that is not related to government business, you will be required to make a personal appearance even with former Presidents. There are no exceptions,” he added.
The United States’ directive follows a similar position taken by the UK High Commission on the issuance of visas for personal visits after some four Members of Parliament were alleged to have engaged in visa fraud.
Already, the UK High Commission in Ghana has taken similar actions particularly against Members of Parliament and other public officials who use diplomatic passports.
The decision was taken after some current and former MPs’ were found to have abused their diplomatic passports by securing visas fraudulently for family and friends who overstayed their time in the UK.