Published On: Fri, Apr 11th, 2014

Submitting to diplomatic pressure to abstain is dishonourable, says St Lucia politician

Therold PrudentCASTRIES, St Lucia - Reacting to what he described as “the defensive and dismissive” posture of the Saint Lucia government over criticisms that it acted irresponsibly and cowardly in abstaining from a crucial vote at the United Nations General Assembly affirming the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the leader of the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM), Therold Prudent, called the government response “misguided and dangerous” to the country’s foreign policy.

Earlier this week, former prime minister of Saint Lucia and foreign policy advisor to the current government, Dr Vaughn Lewis, said that, while Saint Lucia's decision to abstain in a vote on the Russia/Ukraine issue may have drawn responses based on excitement, there are greater considerations that weigh heavily on a country's position in such matters.

Lewis said on Tuesday that the world has changed, interests have changed and so each country has a responsibility to project and protect its own interest.

“When you are being paid thousands of dollars a month to help formulate a foreign policy for an entire country, and the best that you can do is to advise its government that ‘the world has changed’ and that our interest would be better served by a policy which seeks to take for granted or devalue our traditional relationship with the United States and its allies, then something must be drastically wrong with the focus of that government,” Prudent said.

According to the LPM leader, the United States is the only nation on the face of the earth to have such a large concentration of Saint Lucians, all of whom migrated there in search of educational and economic opportunities. Therefore, to adopt a diplomatic posture which tacitly dismisses the significance of the American relationship and the invaluable contribution which it makes in supporting our local economy requires our government to explain why it is suddenly wary of its association with America on the world stage.

Prudent argued that, while it is true that the end of the Cold War has significantly reduced US aid to the island, and it is imperative for our nation to make strategic diplomatic adjustments to better accommodate our continued development, one fact remains -- the world out there is still a very dangerous place for small nations desirous of exploring new relationships with governments which do not conform to the rule of international law.

“In this regard, although Dr Lewis seemed to insinuate that a vote alongside the US and other nations to condemn Russia’s annexation of Crimea would be harmful to our interest and would compromise our relationship with Russia, he failed to tell our nation the whole truth, which is that our decision to abstain from voting was not made out of independent thought,” he said.

Prudent insisted that Saint Lucia’s abstention from voting on the UN General Assembly resolution was one of three provisions which the Russian government favoured or mandated from the nations with which it has diplomatic relations. In essence, the recourse to abstain created an easy way out for nations, such as Saint Lucia, which are quietly sympathetic to the Russians but did not have the intestinal fortitude to cast a resounding no vote alongside Venezuela and North Korea, among others.

On Tuesday, Lewis claimed, "There is almost a negative connotation to abstention but abstention is not a dishonourable activity. It simply says that the interests of those who are in contention do not operate on me so intensely that I am forced to make a decision.”

“For Dr Lewis to argue that ‘abstaining is not a dishonourable activity,’ is altogether disingenuous and fails to tell the complete story of how easy it is for nations such as Russia to cower us into silence in exchange for foreign aid,” Prudent responded.

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