STATEMENT: Further to the previous media releases by the United Progressive Party (UPP) on the Dr. John Ashe issue, I consider it prudent to address the matter of funds received on behalf of the Party.
The former Prime Minister, Honourable Dr. W. Baldwin Spencer, who was also the then Political Leader of the UPP, was actively engaged in soliciting funds for the political consultancies and activities (supplying party paraphernalia, organizing public meetings and political events) associated with general election campaigns.
I am aware that the former Prime Minister had requested of Dr. Ashe that he raise funds from organizations and individuals to assist in the election campaigns, and therefore, there was no hesitation to accept contributions for the UPP.
The former Prime Minister has already stated that he never had occasion to doubt Dr. Ashe’s probity, given his over two-decade history of good standing as a respected diplomat.
In fact, Dr. Ashe served both the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) and UPP Governments, and as recently as September, 2015, the current Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) administration had collaborated with Dr. Ashe in his capacity as a member of the SouthSouth Cooperation Group, a non-governmental organization recognized by the United Nations.
Dr. Ashe worked assiduously throughout his diplomatic career and developed relationships with several friendly governments and organizations, and Antigua & Barbuda benefitted from a number of initiatives and alliances.
I had no reason to doubt either Dr. Ashe or the contributions he spearheaded. There was equally no reason to doubt the source of donations he brought to the Party. The Party, in opposition and in government, has accepted donations from persons, organizations and business interests that did not wish to be identified, and the Party has always respected their right to confidentiality.
The appointment of diplomats and diplomatic envoys to promote investments in Antigua & Barbuda falls under the purview of the executive arm of Government and more particularly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. No other agency, Ministry or Minister for that matter, negotiated or authorized the appointment of economic envoys and the issuance of diplomatic passports.
In the second term of the UPP Government, I was not a member of the Cabinet, and I served as a Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for telecommunications, science and information technology. I did not have any prior knowledge about the selection or appointment of diplomats or economic envoys.
I have never had any discussions with Dr. Ashe or Vivian Wang or anyone else for that matter regarding official diplomatic positions either for herself or anyone else in Hong Kong.
I have never attended any meetings, or had reason to engage anyone in discussion or correspondence, or propose in any way to anyone a pay off for the granting of any diplomatic positions.
I never lobbied or sought to influence anyone to appoint any person to serve as a diplomatic officer of Antigua & Barbuda.
Further, I have never had any discussions or facilitated any communications with Dr. Ashe, Vivian Wang or anyone else regarding the appointment of economic envoys in Hong Kong.
I have never endorsed any wrongdoing that occasioned any donations to the Party. Like former Prime Minister Spencer, I am saddened by the current circumstances in which Dr. Ashe finds himself, and based on the most recent court documents, Dr. Ashe gravely misrepresented the UPP Government by implying that the payment of money can influence the outcome of diplomatic appointments or gain audiences with Ministers. I have always been an active member of the UPP.
In the run-up to the last three general elections, I collaborated closely with all of the political strategists, advisors and Command Centre staff that the UPP had retained, and I worked unremittingly during the planning and strategic roll out of all the initiatives and activities associated with these general election campaigns.
I am thankful to those who have stood in solidarity with me and retained their faith in my character. God bless Antigua and Barbuda. Edmond Mansoor