At long last, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has strongly reacted to statements made by the suspended Director of Passport and Visa, Andrew Wonploe, who claimed that the government is involved in the sale of honorary and diplomatic passports.
In reaction to Wonploe, Acting Foreign Affairs Minister, Henry B. Fahnbulleh, said the MFA does not sell or have a policy that supports or encourages the sale of diplomatic passports or honorary consulate positions.
Min. Fahbulleh added that Liberia, as a sovereign country, has the right to pursue an independent foreign policy to achieve its diplomatic objectives, so every decision that was made is in the best interest of the state and its people.
“Nothing precludes the government from acting in its national interest including pursuing independent foreign policy objectives. This is recognized and enshrined aforementioned of the Vienna Convention of 1962. This government has and will continue to formulate foreign policy objectives in line with the country’s national development plan,” Min. Fahnbulleh said. “These policies are in line with tradition to pursue the country’s interest nationally. Liberia, has you may know, does not have the financial capacity to open an embassy in all the 192 countries of the world; therefore, we are utilizing the platform available to us via the Vienna Convention on consulate relations, of which Liberia is a party.”
Addressing a news conference in Monrovia yesterday, Fahnbulleh said although the Court initially set Wonploe free, it was due to the undercover investigation conducted by the Government of Liberia which aided the US Government to take such action against the country’s former Director of Passport.
Min. Fahnbulleh added that the action by Wonploe to be releasing audio to the public and accusing other individuals of being a link to the passport saga is unfortunate and sad.
“Anyone who engages in the sale of passport is in complete violation of the law and such a person should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Diplomat, official and service passport are a privilege not right. Determination for these passports is made as to who is qualified to receive either category,” Min. Fahnbulleh added. “These categories of passports don’t convey citizenship on the person, rather it is the ordinary passport. These privileges can be revoked or canceled or quenched when it is discovered and proven that the holders of the passport have abused it.
Meanwhile, Min. Fahnbulleh has disclosed that the government of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appointed forty-seven honorary Consulates while the current government number of appointments stands at 21.
Earlier, Wonploe in an unsigned release and audio recording that former Minister Gbehzohngar M. Findley was the person who represented the Liberian Government under President Weah to illegally issue Liberian passports to foreigners around the world.
“The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gbehzohngar Milton Findley, often acts in the place of the Chief Executive (i.e. President Weah) when it comes to the issuance of diplomatic passports. My fellow Liberians, CDCians and foot soldiers of the cause, please be informed that the passport scarcity was planned illegally and executed by the Government of Liberia represented by Gbehzohngar Milton Findley. Gbehzohngar is currently using proceeds from said illegal transactions to fund his campaign,” Wonplo’s statement said.
It can be recalled early this week, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gbehzohngar Milton Findley, in frantic efforts to clear his name said that the allegations by Costa, Wonploe and others that he participated in the trade insisted that the claims from Costa, Wonploe, and others are all false and intend to tarnish his good public service track records.
Amb. Findley furthermore narrated that, contrary to allegations by Costa, Wonploe and others, Honorable Counsel General positions were not sold, but based on proper vetting, which was done in keeping with the laws and procedures of Liberia and with the involvement of the National Security Agency (NSA).
“For the record, I did not instruct the former passport director to trade a Liberian passport to a non-Liberian. While serving as Minister, all Honorary Consuls were commissioned and issued diplomatic passports based on proper vetting by the government in compliance with international protocol and laws,” Amb. Findley said.
“Wonplo did not act alone but rather it was a conspiracy between a Nigerian individual stationed in Ghana and some staff members of the passport section jointly working with Andrew Wonplo in carrying out the criminal conspiracy.
“The issue of these missing passports is not a strange issue to me because, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, I initiated a full-scale investigation conducted with the involvement of the NSA. Let me assure Liberians and the world that Liberian passports are safe, and we kept the integrity of our international passports and credentials safe,” Findley added.