PM Browne says impending diplomatic passport policy caused discrepancies on list

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In seeking to address public concern about missing names and designations on a diplomatic passport list published on Wednesday, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that the main reason for the discrepancies was due to a new policy he intends to implement.
He also revealed the reason why the names of some holders of diplomatic passports were missing from the list, including Senate Minority Leader and Political Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Harold Lovell.
“Lovell was not included because under the policy he would not have been eligible. In the new policy, it is the Leader of the Opposition who would be eligible to hold the diplomatic passport. Parliamentarians who are not members of the executive will not be eligible for a diplomatic passport,” Browne told OBSERVER media yesterday.
Athletes and entertainers may also be excluded from the list, however, the prime minister said that he has agreed to relook at the policy. “Part of the thinking is that all parliamentarians [in] the Upper and Lower houses should be included,” he explained.
As it relates to the issue of individuals being named but but not actually possessing diplomatic passports, Browne stated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was mandated to publish a list of all eligible Antiguans and Barbudans as well as all of the foreign diplomats who were appointed even if their appointments have been revoked. “We did this in the interest of transparency and accountability,” he said.
Browne said that the published list was not the one he had promised to reveal to the public and indicated that there is another list to follow which will be approved by the Cabinet.
“We could not have issued that list until we had the biometric passports. We now have the biometric passports and the Cabinet will go over that exhaustive list to ensure that it is culled so that those appointments that are now ineligible would not go forward,” he elaborated.
He also said to expect the new list which, he says “will be out in a matter of weeks”.
Addressing the missing numbers on the list, the Prime Minister said that Foreign Affairs had indicated they had eliminated the foreign diplomats who were no longer eligible and those who had their appointments revoked from the list.
He further explained that just before the publication, he had instructed Foreign Affairs to put them back on but they had not readjusted the numbering.
On the issue of family members also receiving diplomatic passports, Browne said that it was an invariable practice.
“When it comes to the appointment of a diplomat, almost invariably you would extend the courtesy to the wife of someone who has a diplomatic passport.
You don’t want to have a situation where a person is going through a diplomatic line with a diplomatic passport and then his wife has to go into the ordinary line. That makes no sense,” he said.
He related that same reasoning to the issuing of diplomatic passports to his son, Prince.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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