THE recent explanation by the government about the appointment of a wealthy Saudi Arabian as Saint Lucia’s representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is raising questions both here and abroad.
The opposition United Workers’ Party yesterday said it was outraged that the Kenny Anthony Government “would sully the name of Saint Lucia in the diplomatic arena by the appointment of someone to a post for which he has no known qualifications”.
Dr. WalidJuffali, described as a billionaire is facing divorce proceedings in a London court and according to reports from London, the Saint Lucia government has refused a request by lawyers to lift his diplomatic immunity so that he can be made to testify in the civil suit against him.
Prime Minister Anthony was scheduled to leave the island last night for London “to meet investors” according to a statement from his office here.
The UWP said in a statement that while it held no personal animosity towards Dr. Juffali, and welcomed his interest in Saint Lucia, this country’s diplomatic postings must not be traded for any reason.
It asked: “What is the reason for the change to the longstanding policy and practice of the UK High Commissioner representing Saint Lucia at the International Maritime Organisation, headquartered in London?
“If Dr. Juffali wishes to invest in St. Lucia it must be on the basis of a genuine return on investment. There can be no ‘quid pro quo’ for diplomatic status.
“This is the type of behaviour that scares off legitimate investors and makes a laughing stock of Saint Lucia in the world’s financial capitals:”.
The party quoted Mark Stephens, a former president of the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association as saying: “If this was a genuine appointment, there’s a tradition of the government concerned waiving that immunity so the person can be subject to justice. What I find astonishing is that it hasn’t happened in this case immediately. That only raises questions over what the government of Saint Lucia is doing in effectively colluding in avoiding the rule of law.”
It was only Wednesday after news of Juffali’s divorce suit broke that the Saint Lucia government issued a statement telling of his appointment 18 months ago as St Lucia’s permanent representative to the London based IMO.
Said a government release: “The appointment of Dr. Juffali is consistent with the efforts of the Government to appoint trade and investment envoys to assist in the promotion of Saint Lucia and to attract investment.
“The current issue centres around a divorce case involving Dr. Juffali and his former wife. …. The lawyers for the former wife of Dr. Juffali have requested the government of Saint Lucia to lift the diplomatic immunity of Dr. Juffali to compel Dr. Juffali to testify in the civil suit.
“The Government of Saint Lucia has expressed the view to the lawyers of the former wife that this is a civil matter in which it does not desire to get involved. In the view of the government, this is a private matter and to waive Dr. Juffali’s immunity for the purposes of resolving property disputes arising out of divorce proceedings will create a precedent that could compromise current and future diplomatic personnel in the United Kingdom and elsewhere”
The government also said Juffali had been sourcing investment for Saint Lucia.