St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace has called on the Ralph Gonsalves-led administration in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to overhaul the New York Consulate General in the wake of an alleged “scandal” involving recalled Deputy Consul General Edson Augustus.
Eustace, a former prime minister, told Caribbean Life, in an exclusive interview, that the negative image of the New York Consulate General must be immediately changed.
“We have to clean up that act – to make sure we don’t give the wrong impression,” said the president of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP).
“They (government) have to clean up what the Consulate has been doing,” he added. “That place has a bad image, and the government has not done anything (to address it).
“People are worried, too. They have families up there. They have relatives who’re out of status. And those who are legal, they feel that they will be living under suspicion,” Eustace continued.
He also called on the government to recall Consul General Selmon Walters, a former minister in the Gonsalves administration, saying that the alleged “scandal” has taken place on his watch.
“I don’t know how he (Walters) does not know what has been taking place,” Eustace said. “I don’t believe that. Other people must be involved.”
Walters, Gonsalves, or his son, Camillo Gonsalves, the foreign affairs minister, and other top government officials, did not return repeated calls and email requests by Caribbean Life for clarification or elaboration on the issue last week.
Augustus, a former Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor, was recalled on Feb. 5 because of what the government said were “activities outside the scope of his employment and inimical to interests of the Consulate General and the Government and people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.”
More specifically, Foreign Affairs Minister Gonsalves, a former St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ ambassador to the United Nations, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) last Saturday that Augustus was recalled because he offered to help undocumented Vincentians in New York obtain U.S. permanent resident cards, also known as “green cards.”
“The facts that we have to date indicate that Mr. Augustus was holding himself out as somebody who would be able to assist out-of-status Vincentians in New York with either expediting or facilitating applications for green cards and that he would do that for a fee,” said Gonsalves, the eldest son of Prime Minister Gonsalves.
“That is it. There is nothing to do with passports, there is nothing to do with the sale of green cards, there’s nothing to do with the sale of passports, there is nothing to do with a ring, or a syndicate or anything like that. We have no information supporting that,” added Gonsalves, noting that the local authorities were continuing their investigations into the ex-diplomat’s activities in New York.
But Eustace said he feared that the “scandal” at the New York Consulate General would have far-reaching implications for the nation.
“It’s not a good thing at all,” he said. “It’s going to make it harder for Vincentians at home and in the U.S. This thing is very damaging to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“I’m watching the U.K. (United Kingdom) restricting visas for Vincentians,” added Eustace, reiterating that the Consulate “scandal” comes “only a few months after Canada has removed the right of Vincentians to travel freely without visas.”