Antigua Observer:– As part of the slate of changes coming into effect for the appointment of diplomats and the issuance of diplomatic passports, the public has been told that, “a list of all diplomatic passport holders will be tabled annually in Parliament and released publicly”.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne made the statement in the Lower House of Parliament on Monday, while he announced details of a new policy being implemented to regulate the appointment and travel privileges of diplomats.
As part of that policy, the government of Antigua & Barbuda has said that appointment of non-nationals as ambassadors at large and special envoys or honorary consuls will “be granted on a limited basis”.
He added that such appointments will be made only in circumstances where they would “further the objectives of the state or bring added value to Antigua & Barbuda’s bilateral or international relationship with other countries”.
The declaration comes in the wake of the disappearance of 45-year-old Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua, who the prime minister said holds the office of an economic envoy and who he says once held a diplomatic passport.
Internationally, speculation brewed that Xiao had been taken by Chinese police for some wrongdoing. At the same time, several other countries in the region, particularly Dominica, are reeling from incidents or alleged incidents in which unscrupulous characters were granted diplomatic status and later brought negative publicity to the issuing country.
Recently, it was revealed that one of Antigua & Barbuda’s honorary consuls was implicated in the international bribery scandal surrounding the Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht.
Speaking in Parliament, Browne said that appointments “will not exceed two years” and will be subject to regular review. He added that the power to make the appointment had two years ago been vested in the Cabinet and removed from being the sole discretion of the prime minister.