A diplomatic blunder took place when passports were being issued to people in SVG without an obvious provision for their previous name to be listed if it had been changed. The government, when called out on the matter, said it was a printer’s error. This meant that those persons deported from Canada [or anywhere else] could simply change their name in SVG and go get a new passport without any reference to their previous name and therefore be able to enter and re-enter foreign states in a previously unknown name.
This is believed to be what caused the Canadian government to demand that all Vincentians travelling to Canada have a visa stamped in their passport. The Canadian government at the time declared that Vincentian travel documents were unreliable; therefore, henceforth a visa was required.
Following that, some months later a whole pile of new passports were burnt in St Vincent; destroyed in a fire at Camden Park. How can we now double check if there were any missing? Or how many were in fact destroyed? The evidence was totally destroyed by fire; we may now never know the full truth. Those passports could have simply been clipped on the corners, and stamped on each page inside 'NOT VALID'. Why the big hurry-up to destroy that batch of passports, at the same time destroying the physical evidence as to how many were made unusable by destruction.
Camillo Gonsalves, the son of prime minister Ralph Gonsalves, was until late last year based in New York. He is, I believe, an American citizen, holding dual citizenship [perhaps even three citizenships: US/Vincentian/Jamaican]. He was also a diplomat on behalf of SVG -- our ambassador at the United Nations. A prestigious post for any Vincentian, let alone the son of our prime minister. There was much protest about Camillo Gonsalves getting an ambassadorial position without the post being offered to others, the position was not offered or gazetted for applications from other interested Vincentians.
In New York, Camillo Gonsalves, when returning to his UN diplomatic office after lunch one day, decided to take a short cut to his office by ignoring barriers and squeezing between them and running across the forecourt of the office complex. The police officer on guard shouted to him to stop and he decided to ignore the policeman and almost reached the door when he was apprehended by the police officer. These offices also house the Israeli delegation, so the complex carries a high degree of security. Even after he was apprehended he failed to identify himself immediately as the ambassador or his diplomatic immunity. He was eventually released and a great hoo-hah was made by his father, our prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves. They said at the time they would sue the police or the city, and make a protest to the US government for the treatment of a Vincentian national, the ambassador to the United Nations on behalf of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Rules regarding nationals or permanent residents of the United States are fairly clear cut. The general rules assume that the members of diplomatic missions are nationals of the sending country or some third country. The United States, as a matter of policy, as a rule does not accept as diplomatic agents its own nationals, legal permanent residents of the United States, or others who are “permanently resident in” the United States. It may well be that such persons representing a foreign government enjoy no privileges and immunities if they are US nationals, legal permanent residents, or foreign nationals “permanently resident in” the United States.
You see, if a foreign diplomat does something wrong, something illegal and the US sends them home, if they are a US national, or legal permanent resident, or foreign national “permanently resident in” the United States, how do they send them home, they are already home.
International law, to which the United States is firmly committed, requires that law enforcement authorities of the United States extend certain privileges and immunities to members of foreign diplomatic missions and consular posts. Most of these privileges and immunities are not absolute, and law enforcement officers retain their fundamental responsibility to protect and police the orderly conduct of persons in the United States.
Diplomatic immunity is a principle of international law by which certain foreign government officials are not subject to the jurisdiction of local courts and other authorities for both their official and, to a large extent, their personal activities.
Most diplomats are persons who may be entitled to some degree of immunity under international law. Some of these persons are members of diplomatic missions, others are assigned to consular posts, and still others are employees of international organizations or members of national missions to such international organizations. For each of these categories of persons, particular rules apply and, even within these categories, different levels of immunity may be accorded to different classes of persons. Most of these persons are assigned to Washington, DC, and New York City, but large numbers are assigned in other major cities around the country. Moreover, nearly all of these persons are free to travel around the country either on official business or for pleasure.
Even at its highest level, diplomatic immunity does not exempt diplomatic officers from the obligation of conforming to national and local laws and regulations. Diplomatic immunity is not intended to serve as a licence for persons to flout the law and purposely avoid liability for their actions. The purpose of these privileges and immunities is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient and effective performance of their official missions on behalf of their governments. This is a crucial point for law enforcement officers to understand in their dealings with foreign diplomatic and consular personnel. While police officers are obliged, under international customary and treaty law, to recognize the immunity of the envoy, they must not ignore or condone the commission of crimes.
Now we have a problem that has arisen because of the alleged behaviour of a member of our consular staff in New York. The deputy consul general Edson Augustus was recalled to SVG from his duties based on allegations of misconduct -- “performing duties outside those of his office“. He stood accused of purporting to be able to assist or get Vincentians “green cards” in New York. It was stated by the now minister of foreign affairs, Sen. Camillo Gonsalves, that Augustus had been charging people between US$5,000 and $6000.
How many complainants there are we have not been told. But this could well be the tip of the iceberg. Because the people asking for assistance in acquiring a green card have already overstayed their US visas and would never come forward to complain in fear of instant deportation or arrest for immigration irregularities. There could well be several hundred such people who have paid these giant amounts of money that they can ill afford.
What did they get in return? Well they got told how to fill in the forms, what documents they would require and where to submit them, and it’s alleged an assurance of the acquisition of a green card.
One thing we can be sure of is that Augustus had no means of influence or any influence whatsoever in getting a green card issued to anyone, let alone to a desperate Vincentian illegal. Did he tell them, “I have no influence in getting you a green card and I can only help fill up the forms for US$5,000” Or did he say “pay me $5,000 and I will fill in the forms for you and submit them and get you a green card?” Which one of those options would anyone, regardless of how desperate, pay $5,000?
If the actions by Augustus were illegal and he was employed at the time by the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, can they be held partially or even fully responsible? I doubt that they can, but morally perhaps they should accept some responsibility for employing such a man who has no training whatsoever in diplomacy.
Consular officers are those members of consular posts who are recognized by both the sending and the host country as fully authorized to perform the broad array of formal consular functions. They have only official acts or functional immunity in respect of both criminal and civil matters and their personal inviolability is quite limited. Consular officers may be arrested or detained pending trial only if the offence is a felony and that the arrest is made pursuant to a decision by a competent judicial authority (e.g., a warrant issued by an appropriate court). They can be prosecuted for misdemeanours, but remain at liberty pending trial or other disposition of charges.
According to the US rules, consular officers who are full-time practitioners of consular functions are referred to as “career” consular officers. These officers are nationals of the sending country who are sent to the United States to perform consular functions for a specific period and then are transferred to a further assignment. Career consular officers are prohibited by international law from engaging in professional or commercial activities outside the scope of their official consular functions.
If a consular officer claims to be able to supply a service which they knowingly cannot supply, and take money whilst claiming false ability to supply such a service, is it not therefore money taken under false pretences? Also if that person by wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain for himself, is that not clearly an act of fraud and deception?
What we require to know is if the consulate office considered under diplomatic law or rules a part of St Vincent and the Grenadines? Is his home considered on the same basis? Because if we know the answer to those questions we can determined whether any fraud committed was committed under SVG jurisdiction or US jurisdiction. If the diplomat has carried out such acts during his time at the office, or just used the telephone at the office to carry out such matters [in the US where a telephone is used it could well be another separate criminal act]. If his residential abode was paid for by SVG, then perhaps SVG could say that he was carrying out illegal acts in/or on premises in which SVG has an interest.
Even if he is not considered to have committed an act of fraud, then he must at the very least be in contravention of his terms of diplomatic rights in the US to have carried out operations/or employment prohibited by international law by engaging in professional or commercial activities outside the scope of his official consular functions. One of these acts would be considered a criminal act, the other a breach of US and international consular regulations.
The whole affair hinges on the matter of did he or did he not purport to be able to influence the successful completion of a person in obtaining a green card by his own intervention. If he didn’t, why was he fired from his position?
One of the worries that we must have is how this ULP regime take all these matters so lightly and our international partners and friends are aware what is really going on, being far from as stupid as our own officials. How will it affect those Vincentian illegals in the US, Canada and the UK? Will there be a witch hunt to find and deport them? Has the way this been handled caused us serious credibility damage? Has it displayed us as being ruled by a bunch of liars and diplomatic cheats? How will it affect Vincentians who are legal; will it affect how they are viewed by not just the US and other governments but also the public at large in those countries? The repercussions can be far reaching. If you consider that illegals are living somewhere and most probably with legal Vincentians; if they are caught and deported the legal Vincentians may well qualify to be deported also themselves, even if they have gained US citizenship but hold dual nationality, Vincentian/US.
The deputy consul returned to SVG; he was allowed to leave the state immediately after attending a meeting with minister of foreign affairs, Sen. Camillo Gonsalves in Kingstown. Both Gonsalves the son and Gonsalves the father, perhaps even Gonsalves the Holy Ghost [the cousin], made statements that there had been no crime committed so the man was free to go. What puzzles me is that when rape charges were brought against Gonsalves the father, the DPP 'nolle prosequi' the case. We were told that the DPP was the only person with the right and authority to determine if a case is bona fide or carried any merit. Yet here we have a decision regarding culpability and illegality by a father and son duo without it seems any reference to the DPP.
It is my belief that Mr Augustus was rushed out of the country to stop him from being interviewed and perhaps causing more embarrassment to the father, son and cabinet.
One thing we can be sure of is that this and other matters are far from being over. The repercussions may be far reaching in depth and longevity.
Who should we blame for all these matters? Who carries the ultimate responsibility? Whose head should be on the pike staff or rolling in the gutter?
Is it not the Humpty Dumpty story all over again?
Self appointed keeper of the whistle, and blowing hard