The names “Walid” and “Juffali” are hardly names native to our country, and yet, in recent weeks, no other names have featured as frequently both in the media and in conversations at regular watering holes and other gathering places in St. Lucia.
Who is Walid Al Juffali? According to a short bio on Wikipedia Mr.Juffali is an extremely wealthy person of significant intellectual accomplishment (a doctorate in neuroscience from Imperial College, London). His career, according to Wikipedia, encompasses being Chairman of the family firm, Ebrahim A. Juffali and Brothers. The family firm is described, in the ubiquitous Wikipedia, as being Saudi Arabia’s largest commercial enterprise. In addition, Mr.Juffali also held senior positions in a banking enterprise, the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and, importantly, was, at some time, the Honorary Consul-General for Denmark.
In April 2014, Mr.Juffali was appointed to be the Permanent Representative of St. Lucia at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Neither at the time of his appointment, nor subsequently, was the fact of Mr.Juffali’s appointment made the subject of any official public announcement in St. Lucia. The only reason that Mr.Juffali’s appointment to the IMO became known in the country which he supposedly represented was when an English newspaper published a story of Mr.Juffali claiming diplomatic immunity on the basis of his IMO appointment to resist the right of his former wife to seek judicial determination of her rights to property in England in an English Court.
Nowhere in the material which our research has unearthed, has there been any mention of Mr.Juffali’s experience, skill or knowledge of matters maritime. It is important to understand what the IMO is. It is a specialized agency of the United Nations. The IMO is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. Its main role is to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and universally implemented. In other words, to effectively contribute, a permanent representative must be knowledgeable and experienced in matters governed by the IMO and attend the meetings. And yet we are informed, and it has not been denied, that Mr.Juffali as our representative has not found it ever convenient to attend any of the quarter century of meetings which have been held since his appointment. With respect, no other single fact speaks so loudly to the fact that Mr.Juffali’s appointment as the permanent representative of St. Lucia to an important international body is nothing but a tawdry sham. Who is the intended beneficiary of this sham is yet to be defined. Clearly, the issue of diplomatic immunity for Mr.Juffali allowing him to resist a claim by his ex-wife has benefitted Mr.Juffali. Is there a quid pro quo, as one would expect in any bargain. Has St. Lucia benefitted? And if so, how.
And now, the British Government has requested through the St. Lucia High Commission in London, that St. Lucia grant a waiver of Mr.Juffali’s diplomatic immunity so that his ex-wife may have her day in court in her efforts to achieve what she perceives as a just settlement deriving from her more than ten years of marriage. In taking this highly unusual step, the British Government is, we infer, stating that it is not fooled by the sham entered into by St. Lucia and Mr.Juffali.
The response, to the St. Lucia public, to the British Government request issued in a press release reads in part: “St. Lucia enjoys close political and diplomatic ties with the United Kingdom and will, therefore, follow the well established diplomatic channels to address this matter while protecting its integrity as a sovereign state”.
We find this answer wholly unsatisfactory. It says in effect that we, the people, are too immature and unknowledgeable to be trusted with the important issues which will be considered in coming to a conclusion in this matter.
The habit of secrecy in public affairs has become almost a culture of our government (both sides) – the Hyatt Guarantee; the Grynberg agreement; Asphalt and Mining agreement re Hewanorra; the agreement with Unec Holdings for geothermal drilling.
The people of St. Lucia have a right to know what agreements are being entered into in their names for, in the end, it is we, the people who will pay the cost.
We hope the Juffali cost will be affordable