By Theresa Goodwin
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration has published what it described as an updated list of valid diplomatic passports, names of the holders and the date when the documents will expire.
The information was released to the media during a press conference, one week after the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda confirmed that 145 diplomatic passports and not 190 have been issued since 2014.
Nationals of Antigua and Barbuda, the Cabinet said, accounted for 115 passports and foreign diplomats and their families accounting for the other 30.
Though it was not addressed at yesterday’s press conference, it is also widely believed that the release of the 2020 list is in reaction to an allegation made by St Peter MP Asot Michael who accused the government of issuing diplomatic passports to recipients who are not accredited in their native countries.
Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Anthony Liverpool told the news conference yesterday that the release was in keeping with a commitment by the government to be transparent with the public.
He explained that while a decision had been made to release the information on a yearly basis, the last updated list was published in 2017.
“To date, there are currently 145 holders of valid diplomatic passports in Antigua and Barbuda. The ministry has approximately 23 ambassadors and consul generals accredited … from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Greece, Spain and Venezuela and we have approximately 19 Ambassadors-at-large and Goodwill Ambassadors,” Liverpool explained.
He further explained that the holders of diplomatic and/or official passports are expected to use the documents in accordance with the terms and conditions under which the documents have been issued.
Additionally, diplomatic passports should not be used for private travel except in the case of accredited diplomats and their family members when necessary.
“Diplomatic and official passports can only be used for the period of validity specified and should be returned to the ministry upon expiration or at the end of the holder’s term, or retirement from the position of which the document was issued,” the permanent secretary said.
The list includes the governor general and his spouse, the elected members of the Lower House and their spouses, the President of the Senate and her spouse, the Speaker of the House and several members of the Upper House, the Leader of the Opposition, and those appointed to serve in missions and embassies abroad, those who have been knighted.
The foreign-born nationals who were issued Antigua and Barbuda diplomatic passports were appointed to serve as honorary consuls, ambassadors-at-large, and ambassadors to specific countries or international bodies.
The 2020 list is a reduction from a similar document which was released on July 12, 2017.
That document revealed that 186 diplomatic passports had been issued in recent years, of which 161 were issued to citizens of Antigua and Barbuda. Foreign-born nationals received 25 passports, and in several instances this extended to their spouses.