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USA AMBASSADOR’S STATEMENTS IRK MPS, GOVT TO TAKE ACTION

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LOBAMBA – Statements made by United States of America Ambassador to Eswatini Lisa Peterson have not been taken lightly by government.
As a result, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is dealing with the issue.


This was confirmed by the Minister, Senator Thuli Dladla, in the House of Assembly after several Members of Parliament (MPs) had expressed concern as to why the ambassador was allowed to make undiplomatic statements about the country.


Last week Friday, Peterson called to order the Government of Eswatini on its spending trends particularly on the controversial issue of escort vehicles, BMWs, bought by government at an estimated cost of E90 million and large delegations.


A total of 126 units, made up of 42 BMW K1600 GT motorcycles while the remaining 84 units are made up of BMW X3 xDrive 30d and BMW 540i models, were recently purchased by government as escorts.


First to raise the issue was appointed MP Chief Kusa Dlamini, who said ambassadors accredited to the kingdom knew where they presented their letters of credence.  “Our friends know where to go if they want to discuss issues and they can’t be shouting our stories from any place they choose,” said the chief.  Chief Kusa said ambassadors should continue to respect the country.


Issues


“What was done by the ambassador really did not go down well with us,” he said.  Chairperson of the portfolio committee, Madlangempisi MP Sibusiso Nxumalo, said reports that the US ambassador had blasted the country were not good for diplomatic relations.


The minister said the utterances made by the ambassador were very unfortunate.  She said Article 63 of the Vienna Convention was clear on the role of an ambassador.


“We are dealing with this issue,” said Dladla.  The minister said they would also be inviting all the ambassadors accredited to the country for a meeting to address relevant issues.  She said they were also going to meet with the British ambassador and India ambassador who now had embassies in the country.
On another note, the MPs wanted to know why emaSwati ambassadors and diplomats did not defend the country when there were negative reports about it in the countries they were accredited to.  Dladla said they always gave feedback to the country’s representatives about the position or country’s stand on certain issues.


She said, however, it was mostly the responsibility of the government press secretary to issue all press releases locally and internationally.
Dladla, however, acknowledged that they had plans to engage public relations experts who could give the right and responsible answers.
She said the only challenge was that this needed money.


 On another note, the minister said there would be score cards for ambassadors based on how many investors they managed to bring into the country, including how well they marketed the kingdom from the various stations.


Opinions


 In response outside Parliament, USA Embassy Spokesperson Stephanie Sandoval said the ambassador’s remarks were guided by principles of the Eswatini Constitution. She said specifically, Eswatini’s Constitution guarantees a person’s right to freedom of expression. 

This right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference, the freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, the freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference (whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons and freedom from interference with the correspondence of that person).



“With these constitutional protections in place, any emaSwati should be able to say exactly what the Ambassador said at any time and in any location. If a liSwati has the right to say these things, then foreign envoys certainly do as well,” said the embassy spokesperson.
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