Sir Ron addresses concerns over observance of public holidays at overseas embassies

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Sir Ron Sanders, Antigua’s ambassador to the United States and Canada, said there appears to be a clear misunderstanding about how the embassy in Washington D.C. functions during the observance of a public holiday in the twin-island state.
He explained the process in an interview yesterday, after Ivor Bird, the son of the late Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Snr, accused him of failing to close the overseas office on December 9 each year.
December 9 is observed as a public holiday in Antigua and Barbuda to commemorate Sir Vere’s birthday and his achievements to nation-building.
Bird claimed in a media statement that Antigua and Barbuda’s Embassy in Washington D. C. has not marked V.C Bird Day as a public holiday for several years because the office remains open for business.
He said he was speaking based on calls he had received from employees at the Antigua and Barbuda Embassy in Washington D.C., for the last two years.
“By convention, whenever there is an official holiday in the United States of America, be it Thanksgiving, Labour Day, Independence, or evening Christmas Day – all American embassies throughout the world, whether it is located in South Africa, Moscow, Australia, Canada, or even in Antigua – all American offices must be closed,” Bird said.
However, Sir Ron said there are holidays that Antigua would enjoy as Antiguan holidays, and in the United States there are holidays that are observed solely by Americans.
According to the foreign diplomat, the staff in overseas missions are only able to observe one holiday at a time.
 “Office staff are given a choice as to which of the two holidays they could observe. If it is a public holiday in the United States and not Antigua, staff will opt to take that holiday,” Sir Ron said.
“There will be some holidays in Antigua which would be necessary to take  … Independence Day because we would have something to do,” he further stated.
He said staff in the overseas offices are allowed a maximum of 10 holidays per year.
Sir Ron also said the embassy remains opened to Antiguans in the diaspora despite the fact that some staff may be out on holiday.
“The embassy cannot close, it is the official representative of the government in another country. There has to be somebody at the embassy,” he stressed.
Ivor Bird had called on Gaston Browne, the prime minister, Sir Rodney Williams, governor general to address what he considers to be disrespect being shown to his late father.
Meantime, Sir Ron said he has high regards for the work of Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Snr.

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