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Former Saint Lucia British High Commissioner and confirmed Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) candidate for Castries South, Ernest Hilarie, has debunked claims that the current administration made some kind of “deal” with the country’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Dr. Walid Juffali.
Hilarie, who made an appearance on Current Affairs on MBC Television on Tuesday evening, said Dr. Juffali’s appointment had nothing to do with any deal, stating that the SLP does not operate that way. He also defended Dr. Juffali’s reputation as a well-respected diplomat on the international stage.
The SLP candidate questioned whether there was any deal when American actor Steven Segal was made an ambassador. On that note, Hilarie lashed out at the Opposition United Workers Party (UWP) for the stance it has taken on this issue, which has brought the country’s reputation into question.
“You don’t go about and announce to the world x, y, z is the case, and start accusing individuals, because at the end of the day the reputation of your country like the opposition is claiming, is important and must be treated with importance and respect. In diplomacy, there are so many things you get to know that previous governments would have done, you don’t go and announce it to the entire world,” he said.
Questioned as to whether Saint Lucia has benefited in any way from the Saudi billionaire’s appointment, Hilaire contends that Dr. Juffali has helped with investment promotion and has expressed an interest in assisting the government to train local personnel in maritime affairs, among other things.
Hilaire did not accept the criticism that Dr. Juffali should not be Saint Lucia’s Permanent Representative to the IMO because he lacks qualification in maritime affairs, stating that he too is not qualified in that particular field, but served on the IMO before Dr. Juffali was officially appointed.
“I only attended one meeting. I was required to attend, where Saint Lucia had to present its position and we had to vote. Technical people with actual technical skills attend all the technical sessions and do all the detail work that has to be done. So SLASPA sends all the technical people to attend those meetings, as well as staff of the St Lucia High Commission,” the SLP candidate explained.
Hilaire, who is trained in international relations/diplomacy argued that Saint Lucia cannot be represented just by a simple representative, but someone like Dr. Juffali, who he described as a person with stature.
“You need somebody there to go to the plenary sessions when Saint Lucia has to present a paper that has stature. He has the stature,” he added.
The former Saint Lucia diplomat said Dr Juffali is also the honorary consul for Denmark and he was given a knighthood by a Pope. He has also received some of the highest awards by leaders of the middle east.
Hilaire said in addition to that the Saudi billionaire has a strong diplomatic background.
Asked what he thinks about the statement being made by the UWP where they have vowed to have Dr. Juffali removed as a Saint Lucia diplomat if the party is elected to office, Hilaire said the UWP has to decide what is best for the country and not to be politically vindictive and divisive.
“It’s up to the UWP to decide whether it will end all relationships which Saint Lucia established because it was done by the SLP. It is up to the UWP to decide that every programme started by the SLP must be ended because the SLP started it,” he opined.
Hilaire said this decision will determine the maturity of the party, stating that if someone is going to lead a country, they must think of the national interest of the country.
“But we all know and you have seen from the actions of Allen Chastanet that’s the exact style of leadership he exhibits. He has decimated his party and disrespected his colleagues,” Hilaire remarked.
The SLP candidate does not believe that the Juffali affair will have any impact on his campaign to become the next MP for Castries South, because he is confident that he has what it takes to get the job done.