Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves on Tuesday defended his government diplomatic appointments, amidst the unfolding scandal surrounding one of the nation’s envoys beating his wife in New York on Friday,
“As far as I am aware, this is the first case of domestic violence involving a diplomatic representative,” Gonsalves said of the case in which Sehon Marshall, 43, split open his wife, Xandra Marshall’s lip with a punch on Friday, according to US media reports.
Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party administration has recalled Mr. Marshall for consultation and has also instructed him and his 36-year-old wife, who is deputy consul general at the SVG consulate in New York, to not report for work until further notice.
But it is the second time since 2014 that Kingstown is forced to recall a diplomat in embarrassing circumstances.
In February 2014, Edson Augustus, then deputy consul general, was recalled after Kingstown learned that he had taken money from persons and promised to help them regularise their status in the United States.
Speaking Tuesday about the case involving Augustus, Gonsalves said:
“The issue in relation to the former deputy consul general, the issue was not that the deputy consul general had done anything corrupt in relation to St. Vincent and the Grenadines resources.
“He has acted outside of the scope of his employment by providing services as an immigration consultant to individual persons who wanted to get Green Cards and things like that.”
Gonsalves said the consul general or deputy consul general can advise someone “to go and do so and so with John Browne, an immigration consultant and that person will charge a fee for their service. But you yourself, employed as consul general or deputy consul general or anywhere in the office there to take on that task. You’d be functioning outside of the scope of your employment”.
He said the matter involving the Marshalls became one of interstate relations once the police in New York City were called in.
Mrs. Marshall reported the matter to the police, but they could not arrest her husband because of his diplomatic immunity.
Gonsalves said: “If that incident happened and there was no formal report to the police — I am not saying that there should not have been, I am just making the observation on that fact that if there were no formal report to the police — it would have been a matter between husband and wife.
“You and I might have heard about it in the way in which people hear about things because a lot of people tell me about John Browne and Mary Browne having some kind of a problem but I don’t know, I am not inside their bedrooms. People hear things and in the normal course of gossip and so on, people might have heard.
“And that would not have been an issue. It became an issue — it would not have become an issue in relation to inter-state relations and the praxis of diplomacy.”
Gonsalves, however, said the question raised is one that everyone, including the government, is mindful of.
“… there are people who would tell you all sorts of things [about] the former deputy consul general, but his situation was vetted and I received reports also from individuals who were making recommendations in relation to him — good recommendations.
“But, even though you vet, there are persons who, from time to time, may act in a particular way and what I invite everybody to do is that when we are dealing with all of these things, while we take a stance on it, we must be measured and not to be holier than thou, we must be measured and not to be holier than the pope, while we take a stance against domestic violence.”
Gonsalves said he regrets the development very much because it is a young family of real promise that includes three children, ages 13, 7 and 3.
He said the family and those connected to family members are left with pain and anguish.
The prime minster said he is confident that the Marshall will take a fresh guard.