Your Move Now, Loreen
Former UN ambassador Loreen Bannis-Roberts must be considering her next move as Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit describes her demands for apologies and compensation as "shocking, and entirely rejecte
Earlier this year, when news broke that former United Nations Ambassador Lorraine Bannis-Roberts had made the career-ending move and had allegedly signed diplomatic relations with Syria without the consent of the government, Crispin Gregoire, a former ambassador to the United Nations told the Sun,"She was a sacrificial lamb."
As a career diplomat with extensive experience in international relations, and having occupied the position that Bannis-Roberts held, Gregoire and many other Dominicans, like Irvin Dorsette knew that Skerrit's explanation simply did not add up.
Now a mere six months later, a letter sent to Skerrit from Bannis-Roberts, is proving that "they threw her under the bus to protect their own ass," to quote Dorsette.
In March of this year, news of the establishment of ties between the Skerrit and Bashar al-Assad regimes – first reported by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) - led to widespread condemnation of the government here.
Many questioned both the timing and the rationale, particularly as Syria is seen as a pariah state by the international community because of the brutal suppression of pro-democracy protests in 2011 and the killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians, including the use of chemical weapons on his own people by Assad in the ongoing civil war.
To quell a firestorm of controversy ignited by the signing of the agreement between the regimes in Damascus and Roseau, Skerrit pleaded ignorance, eleven days after Bannis-Roberts and Bassam Sabbagh, her Syrian counterpart, signed the agreement at the headquarters of Syria's permanent delegation to the UN in New York.
He stated that his ambassador at the UN, had acted alone, without his knowledge or that of Dr. Kenneth Darroux, the foreign affairs minister, and as a result, she had since tendered her resignation which took effect May 31.
Unlike many, Dorsette states that he knew this was just the start of the saga, which may very well be true, as an alleged letter dated August 28, 2022, from Bannis-Roberts accusing the government of "false and defamatory statements" against her, have been made public.
According to the letter copied to attorney Gina Dyer Munro, who is said to be Bannis-Roberts' lawyer, it states that the PM's statements and actions in the aftermath of the signing were made with the intention of "portraying me as dishonest, incompetent, untrustworthy and a person unfit to hold the position of Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Commonwealth of Dominica to the United Nations."
It continues that the contents of the said statements are both "untrue and malicious", as it notes that contrary to the Prime Minister's public statement, Bannis-Roberts did receive instructions to sign the communique establishing diplomatic relations with the Arab Republic of Syria.
It goes on to read that "Honourable Prime Minister, although I have never spoken since the events which led to your address to the Nation, I must inform you of the pain and hurt which I have been enduring since your address."
According to the letter, the former UN ambassador was under the assumption that her meeting in Dominica would be to "strategize" their next move, according to an alleged text from Skerrit. However, Bannis-Roberts said that it was "shocking and deeply disturbing" that in the meeting held with Cabinet on March 17th 2022 she was treated "like a common criminal, although I followed procedures and I had done nothing wrong."
"In fact, I agreed to tender my resignation because of the manner in which I was treated and it was clear to me that there was a plan to hold me responsible for establishing diplomatic relations between the Commonwealth of Dominica and the Arab Republic of Syria," the note says.
The lengthy letter goes on to express concerns, not over the tarnishing of Mrs. Bannis-Roberts's reputation, but also her inability to access her monthly "emoluments" and gratuity.
"I cannot understand the treatment which I am receiving from a government which I served with my heart and soul," the communication said. "Honourable Prime Minister, it is not my intention to cause any discord within your government but at the same time it is my duty to protect my good name."
As such, it demanded that the Government of Dominica issue a "clear and unqualified" apology and retraction of the statements made on March 18th, as well as a Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Business and Diaspora Relations Memorandum and Note Verbale on March 8 and 21 March respectively.
The note goes on to state that such should be copied to the local press and sent to all embassies and missions of the Commonwealth of Dominica for onward transmission to all accredited embassies and missions.
"Moreover, in light of my former position as ambassador and permanent representative of the Commonwealth of Dominica, the gravity of the allegations made and the widespread publication, I further demand commensurate compensation for the significant damage to, inter alia, my reputation and employability," it said.
The letter also gave a two-week timeframe for response or threatened to seek alternative redress in court.
A response sent by Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit dated September 8 2022, notes that the claims made against him and his government were "shocking, and entirely rejected.''
"This letter will therefore not engage you on the individual baseless and untruthful accusations made in your letter. However, be assured that each and every one of those false allegations is absolutely refuted," the response said.
The letter which was copied to Dr Kenneth Darroux - Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business and Diaspora Relations, Levi Peter - Attorney General, and Mrs. Gina Dyer-Munro -Attorney-at-Law, goes on to state that Bannis-Roberts admitted orally in the presence of Skerrit and members of Cabinet, in her signed letter of resignation, and in WhatsApp messages sent to others, that she acted without any authority and received no instructions to proceed, and made a serious error of judgement in this matter.
It ended by stating that the demands made in the previous letter were "wholly" without merit and will not be entertained in any way, shape or form."
While the parties involved could not be reached for comments, this has generated many reactions from the public. For instance, Sanford Anthony told The Sun that he believes that all involved should not only issue a public apology to the nation but also tendered their resignation.
On the other hand, other individuals like Sabrina Baptiste sides with the government on this matter, as the young Dominican questions why it took Bannis-Roberts so long to send a letter to the government.