The fight for justice against corruption is never easy. It never has been and never will be. It exacts a toll on our self, our families, our friends, and especially our children. In the end I believe, as in my case, the price we pay is well worth holding on to our dignity. – Frank Serpico.
I am shocked with the level of silence with which the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines has been treating the scandal as it relates to ex-deputy consul general, Edson Augustus. Here we have an ex-pastor who has a track record of being dishonest and immoral; qualities that were known to the entire Vincentian community, including Ralph E. Gonsalves and his cabinet. Augustus were better known for these negative qualities than for his ministerial qualities, contrary to what Ralph Gonsalves says and would like us to believe.
It is no secret that Edson Augustus’ reputation was and still is being banged in the halls of disgrace and was transmitted through the local (St Vincent and the Grenadines) airwaves with the alias of “Sexy Pastor” among other names. Yet, as is his custom, Ralph E. Gonsalves went against better judgment and appoint Edson to an ambassadorial post in the capacity of deputy consul general. Ex-pastor Augustus’s recent actions elevated him from a man who is known for immoral and dishonest behaviour into one who has committed criminal acts against the poor, the weak and the helpless: those who were frustrated by an immigration process that denies them rights they are entitled to.
It is unfortunate that the servant of the people: the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, bluntly refused, to live up to their obligation of transparency and update the Vincentian community; the group to whom they (the St Vincent and the Grenadines government) has a stewardship obligation, of the details as it related to Edson Augustus’ behaviour that fell outside the parameters of his diplomatic duties. What is the government hiding? Why are they afraid to release details of the extent of the damage Edson Augustus’ actions caused to the reputation of St Vincent and the Grenadines?
I am convinced that Ralph E. Gonsalves, the master of bad decisions, is trying to hide a greater and bigger scandal that is associated with Edson Augustus’ dishonesty, his criminality and the undiplomatic behaviour than that which was made known by the government. This whole scandal is a direct negative reflection on the leadership of Ralph E. Gonsalves as prime minister and chief diplomat of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
It is sad that Ralph Gonsalves admitted to personally appointing Augustus and took the time to outline the procedure he followed in so doing. Yet he did not take any responsibility for making a bad decision; in making a decision he had no business making when he took it upon himself to personally appoint Augustus as a diplomat. Like his other appointee, Augustus followed in the footsteps of Camillo Gonsalves, brought disrepute to all diplomatic officers of St Vincent and the Grenadines and its entire people.
Once again, Ralph Gonsalves has circumvented the normal governmental procedure in the name of micromanagement, corruption and master stroke and in the process he has embarrassed our beloved country and people. Ralph Gonsalves’ public declaration that he appointed Augustus generated a few administrative and ethical questions that every Vincentian at home and aboard must and should demand answer to, and they are:
1. Is it Ralph Gonsalves’ job as prime minister to appoint diplomats?
2. Why does St Vincent and the Grenadines have a ministry of foreign affairs, a minister of foreign affairs, permanent secretaries and other senior officers in that ministry?
3. What are the responsibilities of these highly (by St Vincent standards) paid ministerial officers? Is it to sit in air conditioned comfort and twiddle their thumbs all day?
4. Isn’t there a systematic protocol in place that must be followed in selecting, qualifying and appointing diplomats?
5. Isn’t there a systematic process of screening, which the men and women who are sent overseas in diplomatic post to represent St Vincent and the Grenadines must go through?
6. Is there a training process where the expectation and the gravity of such posts are outlined and the consequence and the impact of scandals resulting from unethical, immoral, dishonest and criminal actions may have on the reputation of our country and the social impact such will have on the psyche of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines?
It is not strange that the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines is very quiet on the Edson Augustus issue; I will tell you all why at the end of this article. I will also tell you why they give the public all of the nonessential information about Augustus’ termination from the post of deputy consul general; however, information as it relates to the extent of his operations, how many people were involved in the scheme, and how many victims fell prey to the dealing of the man of the tattered cloth is not forthcoming.
It is interesting that even before the investigation began, the authorities (government) in St Vincent and the Grenadines were convinced and publicly declared that Augustus did not commit a crime or break any laws in St Vincent and the Grenadines; but what are the facts? Here we have a state appointee to a foreign post, whose responsibility it was to look out for the interest of Vincentians aboard, but instead of doing that, He used his position of trust to convince individuals that he is capable of making them eligible to be green card holders when they are not. The unfortunate thing about this scheme is: the man of the tattered (a rough member of the clergy) cloth was asking up to US$7,000 for this service. It is not that Augustus did not commit a crime; however, his diplomatic immunity prevented him from being arrested, charged, and prosecuted in the United States of America.
I would like to inform Ralph E. Gonsalves of a simple fact; if Edison Augustus carried out any of those (complete) transactions or any part of the transactions on the property that is the embassy or consulate of St Vincent and the Grenadines, then Edison Augustus is eligible to be criminally investigated and prosecuted in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
We all know that each foreign embassy and or consulate is the sovereign territory of the country of claim; and the only law that is enforceable in any such foreign mission is the laws of the country of claim. That is, unless the country of claim gives the host country the permission to intervene in an incident that occurs on the property that is the foreign mission.
However, if the St Vincent and the Grenadines investigators can prove that any part of Augustus’ unlawful negotiation was conducted on the grounds or premises of any foreign mission as named above; then ex-pastor/ex-deputy consul general Augustus committed crimes in St Vincent and the Grenadines and he is therefore eligible to be prosecuted within the state of St Vincent and the Grenadines or such a criminal trial can be held on the premises of the foreign mission. If, after Edson Augustus is duly summoned and warned of and to attend any such trial and he refuses, then the trial can be heard ex parte if it is necessary.
If the government prosecuting team decided to hold such trial in St Vincent and the Grenadines, in an effort to cause a miscarriage of justice, a quality the current director of public prosecution and his team have become synonymous with, then evidence can be given at any embassy or consular office of St Vincent and the Grenadines via Skype, as was done in the Trayvon Martin case or in the same manner the commission of inquiry went about taking testimony/evidence under oath outside of SVG, in the St Vincent and the Grenadines Ottley Hall Marina commission of inquiry. In this case, a magistrate, the prosecutor, and the clerk, can travel to the USA and convene a sitting of the magistrate’s court at the embassy. This can be either a criminal trial or a preliminary inquiry (PI) based of the outcome of the investigation.
I know there must be the cutting of some administrative, legislative and legal red tape to get this done; but with a little effort, it can be done. There is nothing in this scenario that a little elbow grease, legal and legislative maneuvering cannot handle.
Taking into account the credibility of Prime Minister Gonsalves and, after considering the fact that this is a man who celebrates and calls dishonest acts and behaviour master strokes, and taking into account that Gonsalves cannot be trusted to do the simplest of things because it is the right thing to do, I think I am more than justified in believing he did, I would still like to know was Prime Minister Ralph E. Gonsalves aware of and technically encouraged the dishonest, unethical, and criminal behaviour of Edison Augustus long before the complaints against him surfaced?
As a result of the last question I asked, if Ralph E. Gonsalves’ had knowledge of Edson Augustus’ illegal dealing? I hope the readers will pick sense out of the nonsense in these closing questions, I am directing to Ralph E. Gonsalves and the questions are as follows:
1. Prime Minister Ralph E Gonsalves, is the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines prepared to make restitution to Edson Augustus’ victims; he (Augustus) being a diplomatic agent of the government who used his position of trust to entrap the poor, desperate unsuspecting illegal Vincentians in the USA?
2. Prime Minister Gonsalves, is it true, in February 2014, when Augustus returned to St Vincent and the Grenadines for his debriefing and left the island on the same day, that he, Augustus, was allowed to keep his diplomatic passport?
3. Mr PM, is it true that when a nation changes passports, as St Vincent and the Grenadines recently did, that the first people to get any such passports are members of the diplomatic corps? And isn’t it true that Edson Augustus was issued with the upgraded diplomatic passport, before he was recalled?
4. PM Gonsalves, is it true that, in an effort to deceive Vincentians, Edson Augustus left St Vincent and the Grenadines using a regular SVG passport, but every leg of his journey after St Vincent and the Grenadines, the disgraced ex-deputy consul general Augustus used his diplomatic passport?
5. PM Gonsalves, isn’t it true that Augustus does not have a diplomatic portfolio, but he is allowed diplomatic privileges at all ports of entry when he travels? This is so because the disgraced pastor still travels with a diplomatic passport.
6. Mr Prime Minister, is it true that all of the people who were swindled out of their hard earned monies were ULP supporters, who have been making tremendous sacrifices to donate to the Argyle International airport and your re-election?
7. PM Gonsalves, is it true that Edson Augustus was not the first person to begin the diplomatic fraud and Augustus was coached by your son Camillo Gonsalves, and the reason for the deafening silence is the protection of Camillo Gonsalves’ reputation?
8. Prime Minister Gonsalves, is it true the only reason why you recalled Edson Augustus is because a large number of your contributors, some of whom are your big contributors in New York City threatened to cut you and the ULP off if you don’t get Augustus out of New York City and out of his diplomatic post? And it had nothing to do with you and Camillo doing what is right?
9. Ralph, on any of your visits to the USA and in the meetings (private and public) you held with citizens of SVG, which includes those who are illegal aliens (which normally comprised those Vincentians who supported you), when you were asked by those frustrated Vincentians for your help and intervention with their green card, did you ever direct them to or suggest to any of those Vincentians to check Augustus because he may be able to help them obtain their green card?
If Gonsalves fails to answer these questions, as I know he will, is there any journalist in St Vincent and the Grenadines or the Caribbean who is bold enough to ask Gonsalves these questions? I am hereby challenging all journalists with a news interest or a stake in St Vincent and the Grenadines, including the editor-in-chief of this the highly acclaimed and trusted Caribbean News Now, to make the opportunity to put these questions to Ralph E. Gonsalves. the truth must be told!
Allan H Palmer