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(SNO) – First Deputy Leader of the St. Lucia Labour Party, Alva Baptiste, is calling on the government to exercise deftness in its management of the country’s foreign policy as it seeks to deal differently with citizens of two countries over travel permits to St. Lucia.
Baptiste, in responding to a question from a reporter, at a press conference held today (August 7, 2018) over government’s intention to impose visa restrictions on Venezuelan nationals and at the same time grant visa-free access to Chinese nationals, said that “when it comes to foreign policy this is an issue that must be handled with great dexterity”.
“The world stage is for people and country to conduct serious business on behalf of the people, to advance the development agenda. It must never be a playground for simpletons,” he said.
Baptiste, in a statement read prior to questions from reporters, said that the prime minister’s rationale for imposing visa facilities on Venezuelan nationals was seriously flawed.
“Mr. Chastanet argues that it was for security reasons. He insinuated that the 60 homicides in 2017, as well as most of the guns coming into Saint Lucia, had to do with the mass movement of the said nationals towards the Caribbean. The fact is, we do not have a problem with Venezuelan nationals at our ports of entry, hence the imposition of visa facilities on Venezuelan nationals has nothing to do with the security interests of Saint Lucia and Saint Lucians. Therefore, the prime minister needs to clarify this allegation as he seems clueless on issues of national security,” Baptiste said.
The former foreign minister said that it was this seeming deplorable ignorance, which led Prime Minister Chastanet to further state that no coast guard boats were operational when he came into office in 2016.
“The truth is, all, except two boats, were operational. The only two boats that were inoperative at the time were PO4 and PO6, which remain so to this day. Consequently, the Opposition dismisses Mr. Allen Chastanet’s comments on the aforementioned national security issues as mere propaganda,” Baptiste said.
Regarding what he claims as untruths by the prime minister on how he found the coast guard vessels on entering office, Baptiste told reporters that the prime minister does not take time to verify things.
“He (prime minister) says everything and anything that comes to his mind. The truth is something that is foreign to him. He has a very difficult relationship with the truth and is very casual about everything that he does,” Baptiste said.