Deputy Consul-General at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consulate in New York, Edson Augustus, was recalled on Friday reportedly because of his handling of the issuing of some Vincentian passports, I-Witness News understands.
The information came from a well-placed source who, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested that the former diplomat could be subjected to an extensive investigation that could involve agencies outside of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kingstown announced on Monday that Augustus has been officially recalled from his post.
The Ministry said in a brief, four-paragraph statement that it received, last Wednesday, reports suggesting that Augustus, while posted to New York, was “involved in activities outside the scope of his employment and inimical to the interest of the Consulate General and the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Having subsequently received sufficient confirmation of those reports, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines acted promptly in recalling Mr. Augustus with immediate effect,” the release said.
The release did not detail the nature or extent of the former diplomat’s activities outside of the scope of his employment.
“All matters touching and concerning the said activities are under further review,” the Ministry, however, said.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, told I-Witness News late Monday evening that he did not want to comment “on the specifics of the issues” surrounding the recall of the diplomat.
He said he did not know if Augustus had returned to St. Vincent, but added, “The fact that he is recalled means that he can’t go at the office (Consulate)”.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace has called for more heads to roll at the consulate.
Eustace on Monday also called on the Gonsalves government to detail to the nation why Augustus was fired.
“Other heads have to roll for this. Other people must have known what was going on, and I am sure that the United States knows what was going on and we have to bear that in mind.
“We can’t have no tightening of restrictions now on Vincentians trying to travel to the United States. We already have it with Canada, [do] we want to have it with the United States?” he said on his weekly radio programme.
Speaking on his weekly radio programme hours after the Ministry’s statement, Eustace said the statement by the Government doesn’t give “the detail that is required to explain to persons why this matter is so important.
“… this kind of diplomatic letter is good to send to an embassy or a government, not to send to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“People need more information than this, otherwise, the information would be given otherwise, you know. Am letting them know that now. … I already have certain information; I didn’t say it this morning… Come clean, say who all were involved other than him, and let’s deal with the matter here in our country,” Eustace further said, adding, “I expect that there would be a further communication shortly”.
But Eustace said that his own information is that what Augustus is accused of doing “would make things more difficult for Vincentians going to the United States, especially when an embassy official at that level gets involved in activities not consistent with his duties…
“… coming now only a few months after Canada has removed the right of Vincentians to travel freely without visas, it speaks to something smelly in our foreign offices,” he said.
Ottawa, in late 2012, imposed visa requirements for Vincentians and several other nationalities travelling to Canada.
“This is a very serious matter and the government has to become even clearer and say what it is that Mr. Augustus has done. … If they don’t, somebody else will do it…
“It is not in our best interest and can in fact, and, I believe, will, be harmful to the interest of people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and those who wish to go to the United States.
“It is an extremely serious matter and therefore one must be more careful with who we push to go into such posts. Our image as a nation is also a function of how people in that kind of position operate in the country to which they are assigned.
“And because of what I know, I am ashamed of what has happened, and embarrassed that the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines should find themselves in that position today. It is a disgrace to our interest, and I am taking interest not only in the sense of the Government of the United States but in the people’s perception of us as a people, not only here, but outside of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Eustace said.
“We cannot continue to operate on this basis in this country. We must be clear [about] exactly what we are doing and who we assign to carry out certain duties. … That is the situation and you will be hearing more in the next few hours.”