UN mourns death of former Antigua envoy

In this Sept. 17, 2013, file photo, Ambassador John Ashe, of Antigua and Barbuda, the president of the General Assembly’s 68th session, speaks during a news conference at United Nations headquarters. Ashe died on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at his home in Dobbs Ferry, New York. He was 61.
Associated Press / Richard Drew, File

United Nations General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft has expressed sincere condolences to the widow, friends and colleagues of former Assembly President and ex-Antigua and Barbuda Ambassador to the UN Dr. John Ashe, who died on Wednesday, June 22. He was 61.

“Despite the many as yet unproven accusations made against him, Mr. Ashe was for many years a hard-working and popular member of the diplomatic corps in New York and at the United Nations,” said Lykketoft on Thursday. “I know that his death will come as sad news to the many professional friends and colleagues he made during his time here.”

Lykketoft recalled that Ashe served as General Assembly president for its 68th session — from September 2013 until September 2014 — and had since October 2015 been facing criminal charges in the United States courts related to his term as President.

Reports indicate that Ashe died suddenly on Wednesday of a massive heart attack.

The late diplomat was a key figure in the bribery case in which he and others allegedly had received bribes from Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng.

Ashe, Seng and another co-defendant were to appear in Manhattan Federal Court in New York on Monday. Seng is currently under house arrest in New York.

“We wish his wife, family and friends well as they come to terms with his sudden death,” said Lykketoft, referring to Ashe.

In October last year, top United Nations officials said they were “shocked” and “deeply troubled” to learn about the “very serious allegations” announced United States’ federal prosecutors against Ashe.

Prior to his appointment as leader of the 68th session of the General Assembly in September 2013, Ashe had been Antigua and Barbuda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

The spokesperson of the UN Secretary-General, Stéphane Dujarric, had said the allegations against Ashe went “to the heart of the integrity of the United Nations.”

Immediately after Ashe was elected by acclamation the president of the UN General Assembly, on June 14, 2013, he took to the floor, saying that, in 18 months, the world body would launch an agenda for sustainable development for all, which “may very well be the boldest and most ambitious project that the United Nations has ever had to accomplish.”

“In order to succeed, the General Assembly needs to be equally bold, ambitious and collaborative if we are to rise to the task we are about to undertake and ensure its completion,” he said, adding that “failure is not an option. Let us show the world [that] can be bold and decisive in our actions.”

While it was important to draw on past experiences, lessons learnt from the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Ashe had said that it would also be important to reflect on new and emerging development challenges, with attention to two main goals: overcoming poverty and ensuring sustainable development.

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