CASTRIES: Leader of the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM), Therold Prudent, has criticized the government’s response to criticisms that it acted irresponsibly and cowardly in abstaining from a crucial vote at the UN affirming the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Prudent said the government response was “misguided and dangerous” to the country’s foreign policy.
Last week, former prime minister of St. Lucia and foreign policy advisor to the current government, Dr. Vaughan Lewis, said while St. 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 that the world has changed, interests have changed and so each country has a responsibility to project and protect its own interest.
However, Prudent believes that the focus of the government is wrong.
“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,” he said.
According to Prudent, the United States has the largest population of St. Lucian nationals in the world, 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,” he said.
Prudent said although it is imperative for St. Lucia to make strategic diplomatic adjustments to better accommodate continued development, the world is still a dangerous place for small nations seeking to explore 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 U.S. 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 St. 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 St. 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.”
Facing mounting criticism, Lewis said there was nothing wrong with abstaining from voting.
“There is almost a negative connotation to abstention but abstention is not a dishonourable activity,” he said. “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.”
The comment drew an incensed response from Prudent.
“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,” he said.
At the recent UN General Assembly vote, 100 nations, including the Bahamas, Barbados, Costa Rica, Trinidad & Tobago and Haiti, voted yes, sending a message to Russia that its infringement of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and its violation of international law were unacceptable.