An ambiguous statement by Prime Minister Gaston Browne has potentially disqualified his promise to publish a list of all diplomatic passport holders for the nation’s citizens to see.
Whether or not Browne is back-pedalling on the promise which he made in a televised parliamentary speech in February is left to anyone’s interpretation.
Yesterday, when OBSERVER media asked whether the list would still be published, he replied, “We’ve stopped giving pearls to swine,” before ending the telephone conversation.
When contacted yesterday, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Anthony “Mamba” Liverpool said the prime minister had, until then, given no directives to him or to the ministry to publish any such list.
“I will have to find out from him what he wants to be done. If the PM has made that comment and so instructs the ministry – that is not a problem and I will follow the instruction once it’s given,” Liverpool said.
He added, however, that the Passport Office was principally the department where such information would be found, not that it could not be compiled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Speaking in Parliament on February 6, the prime minister detailed a revised policy for the appointment of diplomats and by extension, those who qualify for diplomatic passports. As an added measure of transparency, he declared that the list of all diplomatic passports would be published.
This was after he lavished the public with allegations to include the unscrupulous appointment of dubious characters to diplomatic offices by the former administration. The prime minister even alleged that members of his Cabinet had presented foreign nationals to him and had pressured him to appoint them as diplomats.
At the time, the name of Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua – one of Antigua & Barbuda’s economic envoys – was making headlines across the world when his disappearance from Hong Kong was taken to mean his arrest by Chinese police for possible wrongdoing.
For now, the public has been left to mull whether Browne considers the list a “pearl” and who he considers “swine”.