The matter of diplomatic passports being issued in questionable circumstances by small Caribbean countries famously arose two years ago when an Iranian bearing a St. Kitts and Nevis diplomatic passport tried to enter Canada, claiming he was there to see the Canadian prime minister, in breach of all protocols relating to the visit of foreign officials entering the country on official business.He had no appointment; he was an unknown; he could not state the nature of his diplomatic engagements. When questioned Alizeera Moghadhan told Canadian officials he had paid $1m for his diplomatic passport. The government of St. Kitts and Nevis later acknowledged issuing a diplomatic passport to Moghadhan, purportedly as a special envoy to Azerbaijan and Turkey with the mandate “to explore areas of interest to the Federation.” Sounds familiar?
In 2004 Reuben Morgan, a relative by marriage of St. Vincent and the Grenadines attorney general Judith Jones-Morgan, was arrested in London traveling on an SVG diplomatic passport—but also carrying in his luggage a kilo of cocaine. Morgan apparently had no official ties to the country’s diplomatic missions overseas and never had diplomatic standing.
Last year a former Nigerian petroleum resources minister suspected of misappropriating billions of dollars and found to have stashed away hundreds of millions in her home, turned up with a diplomatic passport and an official government of Dominica job appointment. The island’s prime minister quickly issued a statement attempting to dissociate himself, saying he had met Diezani Alison-Madeuke on a stopover in London in early May 2015 and that he had due diligence investigation done on her.
Again, does the last assertion ring a bell?
It turned out Ms Alison-Madeuke was issued her diplomatic passport within days of her alleged first meeting with the Dominican prime minister, leaving much room for speculation concerning the quality of due diligence to which she had been subjected.
In October 2015, the BBC reported that Nigeria’s former oil minister had been arrested in London “as part of an investigation into suspected bribery and money laundering.” She denied wrongdoing when it was alleged that $20bn of oil money had gone missing when she was in office. The matter of diplomatic passports was referred to in a 3 February 2006 cable sent by Mary Kramer (then US ambassador to Barbados and the Caribbean) in which she suggested influence may be purchased to further legitimate business concerns but in the case of “the bearers of passports to which they are not entitled” such influence could be used for more nefarious purposes. (Some of the preceding was first reported by Caribbean News Now.)
According to a leaked US Embassy cable headed “St. Lucia’s Disconnected Prime Minister,” the same Ambassador Mary Kramer and MLO Aboyagye had visited Saint Lucia shortly before the 2006 elections “to dedicate two SOUTHCAM [United States Southern Command] -constructed projects and meet informally with Prime Minister Kenny Anthony.” This was how the ambassador summed up her meeting with Saint Lucia’s prime minister for the purposes of US State Department:
“While both ceremonies created positive public impressions of US-St. Lucia cooperation, Ambassador Kramer concluded that PM Anthony is considerably less committed to security responsibilities than he claims. He professed unawareness that St. Lucia had delayed signing an Article 98 agreement, as well as ignorance of his government’s unresponsiveness to repeated USG efforts to focus St. Lucia officials on bilateral cooperation or even to return phone calls. Anthony has also highlighted the ‘vulnerability’ of small states as a reason to support Venezuela. A former professor, PM Anthony seems more interested in pontificating on what others should be doing in the international arena than becoming a responsible leader at home, in the region or globally.”
The ambassador also placed on record that “with SOUTHCOM funding of USD1.2 million, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and reservists had constructed a combined barracks for St. Lucia Special Forces and Maritime units at Vieux Fort. The facility is strategically located at the southern tip of St Lucia (also the PM’s home constituency). The modern barracks position the newly Special Services and Maritime units to provide the region’s first line of defense against mainland South American drug traffickers as neighbors Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines are unable to offer any significant deterrent.
“SOUTHCOM also funded construction of a headquarters building and warehouse for St Lucia’s National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) in Vigie, near the capital, Castries. PM Anthony was in full campaign mode for both dedication ceremonies; his remarks were flattering and appreciative of US contributions. Both events were covered by the media.” Reported as also present were the prime minister’s Cabinet secretary and deputy director of NEMO Dr. James Fletcher, Minister of Tourism Philip J. Pierre, Embassy MLO Aboyagye, and PAO O’Reagan.
According to the ambassador in a related report: “As PM Anthony appeared to have no planned agenda for the session, Ambassador Kramer made clear that the facilities inaugurated that day were provided with the understanding that St Lucia would sign an Article 98 Agreement; it had not yet done so. In order for the USG to be able to offer emergency security assistance during the upcoming 2007 Cricket World Cup events, it was also important for St. Lucia to sign a Caribbean Regional Maritime Agreement and renew its Status of Forces Agreement.”
The Ambassador also noted “the recurring difficulty of USG officials in reaching the PM and senior members of his administration or in having their calls returned. She explained that this lack of responsiveness has delayed the Article 98 process and other security cooperation efforts. PM Anthony professed surprise that there had been any delay in the Article 98 process, claimed ignorance of any messages from American officials that had not been answered, and generally directed responsibility for any difficulties in the bilateral relationship to others. He sloughed off his government’s inaction on signing the Article 98 Agreement by saying that he thought it ‘had been taken care of.’ ”
The somewhat lengthy report ended this way: “PM Anthony refuses to take responsibility for realizing security commitments while declining to delegate or relinquish the authority needed to meet them. In observing his interaction with his own citizenry throughout the day, Ambassador Kramer concluded that PM Anthony is not interested in acting locally or leading globally; his sole focus seems to be on maintaining his position, rather than providing a vision for St. Lucia’s future. Post considers PM Anthony an unreliable partner whose commitment to security responsibilities consists of self-congratulation and cosmetic solutions . . .”
So, let us now revisit the starting place, say, to March 1998—the Kenny Anthony government had taken office only a few months earlier and now was confronted by harsh reality: Michael ‘Gaboo’ Alexander had recently been shot dead in broad daylight by reportedly unknown assailants. A short time earlier Adolphus ‘Bonnie’ Clarke had also been permanently relocated. “Prime suspects” were quickly apprehended and just as quickly set free. On 7 March a motorist was robbed at gunpoint by masked men in Babonneau. When the police intervened the robbers turned their guns on them.
The day’s prime minister sought to assuage public fears. He assured the nation via TV that the killings and the ambushings and the attacks on the police had all been “linked to a small group of persons allegedly engaged in drug trafficking.” The incidents were not worth worrying about, said the prime minister, it wasn’t as if “some widespread national crime wave was assaulting any and every person in the community.” In essence, it was just “a struggle among rival gangs.” No big thing!
Of course the cutlass attack on the principal of the Vieux Fort Secondary School just days before the prime minister delivered his no-cause-for-alarm speech was something else. The recently-elected prime minister recalled that “when the gangs began flourishing and the Chaussee shootings started . . . the response was slow, irregular and largely tepid.” During that time, he said, “the leadership of the police force was weak, indecisive and, it is alleged, compromised.” He said the police were deliberately “denied adequate numbers of vehicle; they were prevented from responding to calls from the public . . . As a result the force grew dispirited, demoralized and ineffective. And the drug barons knew that.” It could not be denied, the prime minister told the nation, that there was within the force “an element of corruption, to the extent that there is evidence that suggests police may have been involved in protecting certain drug concerns. It appears the chickens are coming home to roost.”
His government was determined to put an end to “the drugs trade, the associated guns and shooting, and the terrorizing of law-abiding citizens.” The chilling message, according to the prime minister, was that “as long as these drug criminals remain free within our community we will always be exposed to the kinds of crime we have witnessed in this country . . . Enough is enough!” His final solution: “Commencing today, and continuing until it has obtained its operational objectives, the police will undertake a firm and sustained operation to secure our streets and rid our communities of this distasteful behavior. The actions will be numerous, varied and will take place at different levels and throughout the country.”
Thus Operation Restore Peace was launched: “I have made it clear to the commissioner and the heads of the operation that while the rights of innocent parties must be respected, the police should be prepared to act resolutely against those involved, those who assist the main perpetrators and any person or persons who hinder or attempt to obstruct the success of this operation . . . Some of the actions of the police will cause us some inconvenience and discomfort [but] we must all accommodate certain discomforts while we achieve our common goals.”
Finally he addressed “the criminals” directly: “You who have inflicted the pain of the last few days on the people of this country, I promise you a tougher time than you ever imagined. The net will be stretched around you and slowly but surely close in to trap you and terminate you once and for all for all your unlawful activities. I promise you can run but surely you cannot hide. In the coming days, weeks and if necessary, months, you shall find no hiding place in this our beloved country, until peace is returned to our native land.”
Three years later peace still had not returned. So the prime minister issued on Thursday 28 June 2001 his directive to the police to “take back our streets from the criminals.” He said in a televised address that his government would do “what it has to do to ensure the safety of life and property of all law-abiding citizens.” The police would be “expected to exercise its functions as the guardians of peace and order.”
The prime minister went on: “To take back the streets and restore confidence [yes, Operation Restore Confidence did not begin with Stephenson King!], we have directed the police to take back the streets. They will achieve this by . . .
establishing a task force to target known criminals, deploying the SSU in trouble spots around the country and generally increasing visible police presence.”
He ended his cri de guerre with this directive: “I want to warn anyone who is now engaged in criminal activity, or is even thinking about it, that law enforcement will be hard and uncompromising. The police will deal with you speedily and efficiently. I encourage the police to continue to be resolute while maintaining a high level of professionalism in their work.”
Four years later a new government was in charge. But little had been done about “that element of corruption within the police force . . . to the extent where evidence suggests police may have been involved in protecting certain drug concerns.” With Stephenson King now in charge, an “emergency Cabinet meeting” was convened at which particular decisions were taken to tackle the still out of control criminality. They included the creation of a “ministerial task force on crime and security, under the chairmanship of the prime minister, and including the minister for home affairs.”
It appears from comparing the new prime minister’s statement on crime that King may well have plagiarized several paragraphs from his predecessor’s 2001 address. In 2010 the leader of the then opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party commented on the burgeoning crime, violent crime in particular. No surprise that he blamed much of it on the day’s administration. He said the King government suffered from “a glaring lack of leadership with double standards on the issue of crime.”
The SLP leader expressed sympathy for “those who have lost their loved ones in the latest crime wave and we assure them and all citizens of our commitment to provide lasting solutions to the problem. We also empathize with the police whose crime and detection and crime capabilities have been compromised by the government’s failure to provide the necessary resources.” Doubtless with election in mind, the SLP leader took the opportunity to caution the King government “not to disregard the links between the core of the problem and persons in high places.”
He cautioned Saint Lucians not to accept “the attempts by the government to make the police the scapegoat in the latest case of governmental incompetence.” He was referring to several fatal shootings that some described publicly as “extra-judicial killings by the police.” Fast forward, now, to 2013. Kenny Anthony, by his own account fresh from his stint in Purgatory, is back in the saddle. On 20 August he delivers a televised address entitled “An Unhappy Episode” that referenced an “exceedingly delicate complex matter that involves several parties: the officers of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, the United States government, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and, most importantly, the citizens of our country.”
His address focused on “twelve individuals who were shot and killed by police officers between 2010-11 during the tenure of the government of the United Workers Party.” The killings had occurred, the prime minister said, “after the former government launched what was then described in the media and elsewhere as Operation Restore Confidence.” “Many would recall that there was in circulation a hit list of targeted persons deemed to be criminals,” said the prime minister. “I recall that in opposition I had seen such a list. It is this issue which has pre-occupied the United States and which has led to the actions taken against the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force.”
The actions to which the prime minister referred centered on the State Department’s decision under the Leahy Law no longer to “furnish any assistance” to a police force suspected of having committed “gross violations of human rights.” As a consequence, noted the prime minister, his government was now “solely responsible for the maintenance of its coast guard fleet.” He named several other sanctions, including the withdrawal of key US visas.
“The stark reality we confront,” he went on, “is that the United States will only lift those sanctions if in their judgment all necessary steps have been taken . . . In effect, if the sanctions are to be removed we must show proof that we are taking corrective steps to deal with the situation.” And so was launched from the office of the prime minister what became known as “the IMPACS investigation”—details of which we need not go into yet again.
Two years went by before the prime minister again addressed publicly the issue of the “gross violations of human rights by the police.” On 8 March 2015 he informed the nation that his recruited Jamaican investigators had established as fact that there had indeed been a death list, just as the prime minister had said in advance of the probe. Also, that his investigators had provided proof that business people, corrupt politicians, government officials and others facilitated the crime problem in Saint Lucia. And he promised to pass the report on to the DPP for processing.
Several months later, in the aftermath of a public brouhaha between a campaigning government senator and the Director of Public Prosecutions, it emerged that not only had the government contravened aspects of the act governing investigations by the Police Complaints Unit but that the IMPACS report offered no evidence supportive of its extremely serious claims.
Soon after that debacle three diplomats representing the EU’s 28 member states met here with the prime minister. Following their meeting the diplomats convened a press conference at which they expressed grave concern for due process in Saint Lucia. Indeed, they said it was clear the island’s justice system was “broken.” As for the IMPACS report, they said the prime minister had given them his word it would by April 2016 be properly put before the courts. What a surprise, then, to hear the prime minister say during his New Year’s message he had hired two Washington lawyers to lobby the State Department to resume portions of foreign assistance that were suspended by the US government. By reliable account, the lawyers’ fees total to some US$200,000.
Even more remarkable is the organization that sourced the lawyers and undertook to pay them on behalf of the government of Saint Lucia. Of course, all of this should be public information but . . . In any event the US State Department has informed the government via diplomatic personnel in Washington that it remains as committed as other countries to “supporting the rule of law and the investigation and conviction of those who have been credibly alleged to have committed extra-judicial killings across the Caribbean.”
In the meantime the government is once again in election mode, carrying on as if IMPACS were a done deal, even as the deadline given it by both the EU and the US approaches. So let me end as I started: last Saturday afternoon, with many getting ready to celebrate their status as “100% Saint Lucian,” a private jet landed at George F.L. Charles Airport with four Middle Eastern gentlemen on board. Within minutes the group had boarded a waiting limo and were on their way to The Landings. It turned out that one of the arrivals, none of whom was required to submit to the usual immigration procedures, was Gilbert Chagoury. Yes, the Gilbert Chagoury. He and all but one of his friends carried Saint Lucian passports with expiration dates in 2018—an indication that they were acquired in 2013, since the life span of Saint Lucian passports is five years. Most readers will remember our government started offering Saint Lucian citizenships for sale in January 2016!