Former Foreign Minister, Alva Baptiste, has been responding to Monday’s announcement of plans to slap visa restrictions on Venezuelans visiting Saint Lucia.
“It is something that I believe the government should take to the parliament and let’s have an honest debate about what should be done in this particular case,” Baptiste told a news conference Tuesday.
“It is not something that we can casually say: ‘Yes we should’ or ‘No, we should not,’” the former minister asserted.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet disclosed on Monday that he had asked immigration authorities to prepare a report on the matter for cabinet.
Chastanet, expressing security concerns in relation to the crisis in Venezuela, told reporters at a pre-cabinet news conference that barring any impediments, the visa restrictions will be imposed.
But Alva Baptiste, pressed at a news conference on whether Saint Lucia should merely welcome Venezuelans here with open arms, said he could not ‘casually’ make such a determination at a news conference.
“We need to analyse the situation very carefully – we have our own particular challenges and at this particular point in time, we must pursue courses of action that will balance our domestic obligations with our international obligations,” Baptiste declared.
He asserted that there was need to look at ‘various proposals’.
According to the former foreign minister, in opposition the Saint Lucia Labour Party is in no position to decide for the government.
In response to questions about Prime Minister Chastanet’s assertions regarding the involvement of Venezuelans in criminal activities in Saint Lucia, Baptiste noted that there are problems with other countries as well.
“We have heard even CARICOM countries dealing in ways that contribute to violence – we hear about Martinique all the time; Saint Lucians going to Martinique, Martiniquans coming here – do we just rush to impose visa facilities on people coming from Martinique?” He told reporters.
Baptiste said: “That’s why the diplomatic world is not a place for simpletons. It is not a place for simpletons at all. We must conduct our affairs with great dexterity and we need to take time to analyse things – to comprehend things in all of the ramifications. It is only then that we can make a determination that would be appropriate.”