By Ian Francis
The current diplomatic spat between Ecuador and Britain is not a bilateral issue and the Organization of American States (OAS) must be commended for coming to the defence of its long standing member, Ecuador. Britain’s bullying tactics against Ecuador must be strongly condemned and Caribbean Commonwealth members of the OAS must show courage and tenacity by rejecting Washington’s assertion that the meeting of OAS foreign ministers scheduled for Friday is not necessary. Washington’s hawkish and disgraceful interpretation of the situation is very worrying and misleading. I am indeed grateful for Canada’s support of the meeting and that they will not succumb to US and British pressure.
Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at email@example.com
There are two separate and distinct issues regarding the current diplomatic spat. These are: 1) Ecuador is a sovereign nation that has the right to grant refugee asylum to anyone who seeks such protection. In this case, Mr Assange sought asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and his request was granted. 2) As a refugee, Britain must and should recognize the United Nations Convention on Refugees and ensure that Mr Assange is afforded safe conduct out of the United Kingdom to Quito. Britain’s threats to storm a foreign embassy were quite unfortunate and this is why my support for ALBA’s resolution on this issue is unshakeable.
While Caribbean nations foreign ministers are expected to debate the issue under the umbrella of the OAS, they must be reminded that, as sovereign nations and signatories to the above two conventions, they should not shrug or abandon their foreign policy strategies by not strongly condemning Britain. In my view, this is an important test for sovereign Caribbean nations and Caribbean people in the Diaspora are closely watching their conduct. There should be no cold feet on this matter.
Britain’s barbaric and undiplomatic behaviour to Ecuador should not be surprising to individuals and institutions who are concerned about rights and privileges. It is fully recognized that 9/11 was a monstrous act that requires ongoing condemnation and security changes. However, it is fundamentally incorrect when certain Western nations embark upon the trampling of individual rights and freedoms in the name of improved security. Here are some glaring and disturbing examples of individual rights violations.
In Australia, there is an ongoing debate about the protection and processing of refugee rights. This debate is so far reaching that it has forced the government to introduce draconian legislation that, if passed, will impinge upon the United Nations Convention.
In the United States, the Supreme Court has given the Obama administration carte blanche to abuse and control detainees housed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In Canada, Harper and his parliamentary crew have shown continuing contempt and disgust for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. Given that the Charter is difficult to eliminate, the Ottawa administration has embarked upon the tinkering of various bits of legislation, which include citizenship and immigration, the criminal justice system and the environment.
Britain’s obsession with new security measures has resulted in the digitalizing of London that impact upon all forms of privacy. With the recent diplomatic bullying of Ecuador, the latter’s embassy in London is now surrounded and pointed with surveillance cameras that make privacy very difficult at the Embassy.
As Caribbean Diaspora observers watch Canada and the region’s performance at Friday’s OAS meeting, let’s hope and pray that there will be no vacillation. Washington’s arm twisting and shallow interpretation of the issue should be ignored by members who cherish and support individual rights and freedom.
In conclusion, let me reiterate my understanding, this is not a bilateral matter between the United Kingdom and Ecuador, and Washington’s assertion is incorrect and misleading. Ecuador is a small and fragile nation in the Americas that has shown bravery and tenacity by exercising its diplomatic rights and privileges as afforded to it in the Vienna Convention. Cameron, his London bullies and Washington must recognize Ecuador’s rights and respect them.
I am watching to see if Barbados’s Stuart and his CARICOM entourage will affect their foreign policy coordination, which was much touted after the last heads meeting in Castries, St Lucia. Principle and defence of rights and freedom must take priority over bilateral and multilateral assistance.