THE Juffali Affair continues to rage and with each passing episode the government comes off more bruised than before. On Monday, a British judge questioned the legitimacy of Juffali’s appointment as Saint Lucia’s representative on the International Maritime Organization in light of the fact that it appeared to have been made in an attempt to shield the Saudi billionaire from testifying in a divorce suit brought by his ex-wife.
For some very strange reason, some people have interpreted the judge’s ruling to mean that he was in fact saying Juffali was not really an Ambassador. Questions about Saint Lucia’s sovereignty and its right to appoint its ambassadors have also been served into the argument. Those people also rely on the fact that Juffali’s appointment was accepted by both the British government and the IMO.
We have not seen the full judgment of Judge Hayden in London delivered last Monday. Neither, we think, have the various other people commenting on the judgment. But from what we read into the various press reports on that judgment we find no where that the judge implied that Juffali was not an ambassador. What we understand the judge said was that the appointment was “spurious” and “entirely artificial” which we interpret to mean quite simply that Juffali’s appointment was not genuine, that it had an ulterior motive; that it was a device used to allow him to invoke immunity in the divorce suit. This in fact is a view shared by a lot of people following this saga.
And this to our mind was the basis of Judge Hayden’s decision: that Juffali should not be allowed to do this and get away with it.
Then there is this talk that at the time of the appointment neither the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office nor the IMO raised concerns about Juffali. The reason is quite simple: that at the time neither knew what Juffali and our government were up to. It is the timing of the appointment that gave Juffali and our government away, coming as it did as soon as his diplomatic appointment was in place.
In its usual style, our government has expressed “surprise” at the ruling and has even questioned it. Juffali’s business with his ex-wife will be settled in the court in London. Our continued interest in this matter is the secrecy in which this entire thing took place and the terms and conditions under which Juffali got his appointment. This is the information that the people of Saint Lucia are calling for and it cannot be that the government has not heard their cry.
It is difficult to understand why the government would want to take on a judge all the way in London and treat its own people with such contempt and disdain. It is issues such as this that Saint Lucians railed against in the conversations with the Constitutional Reform Commission, this matter of high handedness, abuse of power and lack of transparency and accountability in the stewardship of government. Before this story broke, our government had had some 20 months to announce Juffali’s appointment to the people of Saint Lucia and never did.
At the moment, it seems that there will be no explanation to the people by the government or even by the former High Commissioner to London, Mr.Hilaire, who must have been involved in the discussions which led to Juffali’s appointment. Imagine, in all of this, there has not been a single comment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which normally handles diplomatic appointments. Is there a gag rule within the government on the details of this matter? What transpired that resulted in Mr.Hilaire giving up his place on the IMO to the Saudi?
Whether Juffali wins his case or his wife gets a slice of his fortune is none of our business. But the fact that he was appointed as a diplomat of our country, is our business and we have a right to know all the details of that appointment.