St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda: Subsequent to the statement released by the United Progressive Party on Wednesday last, I considered it prudent and necessary to elaborate further on the matter of the funds I received, on behalf of the Party, from former ambassador Dr. John Ashe. As then political leader of the United Progressive Party, I was actively engaged in soliciting funds for the maintenance of the Party and for the election 2014 campaign.
Dr. Ashe was asked for assistance in raising funds among persons and organizations of goodwill; and, as such, I did not hesitate to accept, through him, donations for the exclusive benefit of the United Progressive Party. I have never had reason to doubt Dr. Ashe’s integrity. As a senior, seasoned, and highly respected diplomat of more than 20 years’ good standing (he was a diplomat from 1989 to 2014), Dr. Ashe served the Government of Antigua & Barbuda – both the ALP and the UPP administrations – with distinction.
During his tenure, this country benefited from a number of initiatives and alliances with friendly governments and organizations, and he never, at any time, gave me reason to look askance at him or the contributions he spearheaded. As proof of the esteem in which Dr. Ashe was held, his bid for the presidency of the United Nations General Assembly in 2013 was not only uncontested, but actively supported by all members of the GRULAC nations.
His expertise in a number of critical areas – particularly climate change and sustainable development – was widely acknowledged and acclaimed. And, right here, at home, some persons had even recommended him for a Queen’s Knighthood. As a matter of fact, even as recently as last month, the current ABLP administration was pleased to work with Dr. Ashe in his capacity as a member of the South-South Cooperation Group – a non-governmental organization recognized by the United Nations.
Hence, I repeat, I had absolutely no cause to distrust him, or to suspect the source of the donations he brought to the Party. In much the same vein, I have accepted donations from local persons representing business interests that did not wish, necessarily, to be named. This was the case when I was Leader of the Government, as well as Leader of the Opposition, and I have always respected these persons’ right to confidentiality.
I am not offering you, the public, excuses. Rather, I am simply stating the reasons why I did not treat Dr. Ashe’s actions with suspicion. That said, I do not, now, and never have condoned any criminal activity – alleged or real – that occasioned any donation to the Party. I reiterate further that, while I am deeply saddened by the circumstances in which Dr. Ashe now finds himself, based on the Court document, he gravely misrepresented the United Progressive Party government by implying that bribe money was necessary to gain an audience with me or my colleague ministers.
That was never the case during the 10 years of our administration. I am aware that there are persons who wish to exploit this situation purely for political grandstanding. Obviously, owing to the beam in their own eye, they are not seeing clearly. This is not a moment to gloat. Rather, it is an opportunity to reflect – as we close the 34th year of our political independence – on what this episode has done to the image of Antigua & Barbuda; to the integrity of the United Nations; and to relations between ourselves and the United States and the rest of the world.
I am grateful to all those who have stood in solidarity with me and retained their faith in my character and stewardship. I assure you, your faith is not misplaced. Likewise, my faith in my colleagues and discerning countrymen and women is unwavering, and I am confident that we will weather this storm together. Thank you for listening. May God bless you all, and may He bless and heal this nation of Antigua & Barbuda.