Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves on Tuesday suggested that Vincentian diplomat Sehon Marshall, 43, will be fired but that his government will also shield him from prosecution in the United States for punching his wife in the mouth last week Friday.
Police responding to a call last Friday from Marshall’s wife, Xandra Marshall, 36, deputy consul general at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consulate in New York, met her with her lip split open and her hand swollen, according to US media reports.
However, the lawmen could not arrest Mr. Marshall because of his diplomatic immunity.
Responding to questions at Tuesday’s press briefing, the prime minister said that some persons have called for Mr. Marshall to be fired while he is still in the United States.
“Persons don’t think through necessary consequences,” the prime minister said.
“If you terminate his employment, the persons who make the demand, it means immediately that he no longer has a diplomatic status, and certain things may follow from that.
“But this country is mindful in its interstate relations and the theory and praxis of diplomacy that our representatives must be clothed with all the requisite diplomatic privileges as are necessary and desirable for the conduct of civilized relations between states.”
Gonsalves said nations have so acted for many years and mentioned the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia and the Vienna Convention of 1969.
He further said he has heard the call for the waiver of diplomatic immunity.
“Well, they should study the consequences of waiving diplomatic immunity willy-nilly,” the prime minister said.
“It is a matter which is reserved for very serious consideration in respect of offences like terrorism, serious case of money laundering, drug trafficking, murder; things which rise to a particular level and mature mind have to reflect on these things, not just infantile impulses in relation to state-to-state matters.
“I think that is always important to bear in mind. We are a young country and we will learn how to handle these things but if you look at the literature, you will see that persons have had to invoke diplomatic immunity — diplomats ranging from people in Europe, north America, Africa, Asia, including Japan and so on and so forth, I mean for various different things.”
Gonsalves has ordered Mr. Marshall to return home “for consultations” and has also ordered him and his wife to not report to work until further notice.
Asked how likely is it that Mr. Marshall would be fired, the prime minister said the third limb of the decision that his government announced on Monday is that it is treating the matter with utmost seriousness and intends to pursue all alive legal options.
“You wouldn’t really expect a prime minster in a liberal democracy with a multiplicity of checks and balances and in a matter involving inter-state relations for me to announce, as though I am some kind of a czar or some kind of a feudal overlord, that John Brown or Ephraim John is to be dismissed from their employ. You wouldn’t expect me to behave like that, would you?”
Gonsalves said if he were foolish enough to answer the question directly he would not be worth of the job he has been holding for almost 17 years as prime minister.
The prime minister said that he expects that Marshall will return to St. Vincent within a week.
“I mean, ‘forthwith’, it is not a question that he is down in Barrouallie and his home in Chateaubelair and he just got to take a minibus and come up the road because the house is still down there and so on.”
Barrouallie and Chateaubelair are towns in western St. Vincent, with the latter, which is Marshall’s hometown and the further away from the capital, located in the country’s northwest, some 21 miles (34 kilometres) north of Kingstown.
“There are things you have to — you appreciate the practicalities. ‘Forthwith’ means something reasonable,” Gonsalves said.
“Clearly, it is not just a question of booking your passage but if you’re there, yo’ want to pack up your stuff, you might have a car, you going try and leave it with someone to sell it, make arrangements. I think he has a few days in which to do those things and then to return for consultations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The guiding principles which were enunciated would indicate the degree of seriousness with which the government addresses this question. So I haven’t seen him face to face, because obviously, he isn’t here.”
Mr. Marshall was appointed deputy consul general in November 2014, three months after making insulting comments about the jobs that some Vincentians perform in the United States.
He was appointed to replace Edson Augustus, who was recalled earlier in 2014 for taking money from persons in the United States and promising to help them obtain permanent resident cards.
Mr. Marshall was transferred to the SVG Permanent Mission to the United Nations in August 2016, where he was a counselor.
His wife was appointed on Nov. 15 to fill his former post at the consulate, but is yet to sign a contract with the government or to receive the requisite diplomatic credentials.