By Orville Williams
The government is giving the assurance that the process of selecting and managing appointments within the diplomatic corps is effective and transparent. Cabinet spokesperson, Information Minister Melford Nicholas, gave the guarantee during yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing.
Several Caribbean countries have come under international scrutiny in recent times, and an Al Jazeera documentary, “Diplomats for Sale,” stoked that fire late last year, delving into the details of diplomatic appointments in specific Caricom states.
Some of the foreign-born individuals placed under the microscope in the documentary were said to have been involved in unscrupulous financial and other dealings prior to and after their appointments, while some allegedly made certain concessions in order to be granted the diplomatic passports.
Nicholas explained that, in Antigua and Barbuda, there have been instances where diplomats have had their appointments rescinded, due to varying issues. This, he says, proves the government’s efforts to maintain lawful and ethical foreign affairs.
“There are at least three former diplomats – persons on the diplomatic corps – that would have had a change in their circumstances. I can think of one, Mr Alex Saab, who came into some degree of disrepute internationally and his instruments were withdrawn.
“I think that there was another potential investor, Mr Xiao, who we had been working with. Unfortunately, over the last two years, there would have been some issue that would have developed between him and mainland China and he would have gone out of circulation – his status too, would have changed.
“I believe that there was [also] a Dero family, whose passport and appointment would have reached expiration and would not have been renewed. Outside of those three, I’m not aware that there are any other persons who their circumstances would have been withdrawn,” Nicholas explained.
The Cabinet also disclosed that there were 145 diplomatic passports issued since 2014, with Antiguan and Barbudan nationals accounting for 115 passports. Foreign-born diplomats and their families accounted for the remaining figure. A full list will be published sometime next week, according to the Cabinet.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also scheduled a press conference for next Monday, to provide further clarification on the whole matter of diplomatic passports.