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PM: DECISION TO GRANT MORGAN DIPLOMATIC PASSPORT WAS CORRECT

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Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has stated emphatically that his decision to grant Reuben Morgan a diplomatic passport in 2001 was a correct one.

“I knew Mr. Morgan for years as a decent gentleman – 72 years of age – and I thought that it was the correct decision to grant him a diplomatic passport. {{more}}That wasn’t anybody else’s decision but my own. So I am not going to fob the decision off to the Minister of Foreign Affairs or fob the decision off on the Commissioner of Police or anybody like that. It was my decision, and a decision made, as I’ve said, for all the right reasons,” Dr. Gonsalves told reporters Tuesday.

The Prime Minister’s comments followed a question as to what measures had been taken since Morgan had been arrested and charged in London for cocaine.

Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves said he was shocked and surprised when he was informed of Morgan’s arrest. However, he immediately called the British representative and informed him of the incident and that Morgan’s diplomatic passport was being revoked immediately. He also said he called this country’s High Commissioner to London, Cenio Lewis, and informed him of the decision and advised him to promptly inform the Foreign and Commonwealth office of the said decision.

The Prime Minister also stated that he held a private meeting with Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace and the NDP’s spokesman on national security matters, Senator St. Claire Leacock, and told them the facts.

“But people forget one thing in all this – Mr. Morgan has not yet been tried. Mr. Morgan, like all of us, is entitled to the presumption of innocence. He, I’ve been advised, has given his lawyer instructions which the lawyers consider constitute a defence to the charge of importing cocaine,” he stated.

He made it quite clear that he had not communicated with Morgan’s lawyer and that he did not know who the lawyer was.

Dr. Gonsalves further said he had been advised that if a person pleads to such an offence, the range of sentences is between six to eight year imprisonment, but if the matter goes to trial and the court finds that person guilty, then the sentences would range from between 10 to 14 years.

Dr. Gonsalves said he was advised that Morgan had insisted on his innocence and has provided a defence to his lawyers. He said the preliminary inquiry into the matter is coming up and at the appropriate time he would enter a plea of not guilty. However, the Prime Minister said, everybody who had written or spoken about the matter has already brought him guilty.

“I don’t know if he is guilty or not. He is entitled to the presumption of innocence. And there are a lot of people, if it turns out that the court says that Morgan is not guilty, a lot of people may lose their house and land and other things. Because, I am quite sure his people must be packing up the newspapers and have recordings of a number of journalists on air who have already pronounced him guilty,” he stated.

The Prime Minister said Morgan is charged with a criminal offence and some may feel the “decks are stacked against him” while others may take the position that “you don’t know what will happen in the court of law”. But, he said, those are matters that responsible people do not speculate about.

He said what was of interest from a public policy standpoint was whether the diplomatic passport was granted to Morgan in suspicious circumstances, and what steps the government took, having found out about the incident.

Dr. Gonsalves said the British government has issued a diplomatic note expressing their gratitude for the prompt manner in which the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines dealt with the matter.

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