|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 81 - Tuesday May 16, 2006
|"How a Russian Became Dominica's Ambassador |
Like most Dominicans, I was stunned by the news that our country had hauled Switzerland before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), on charges of alleged violations of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Nothing however prepared me for the news of the person on whose behalf the case was brought. Roman Lakschin, is Dominica’s special envoy to the United Nations, its Specialized Agencies and the World Trade Organization (WTO) since March 1996, and as a member of the Permanent Mission of Dominica to the United Nations in Geneva (first as a Counsellor, later as a Chargé d’affaires and Deputy Permanent Representative with the rank of Ambassador).
The circumstances of Lakschin appointment were indeed curious. In March 1996, he was appointed Counsellor to the Dominica UN mission in Geneva by then Prime Minister Edison James, in a move that very few Dominicans were made aware of. In December 1996, the Swiss government withdrew his accreditation claiming that he could no longer act as a diplomat since he was indeed a businessman, and he should leave the post by February 1997.
Surprisingly, in March 1997, Edison James renewed his appointment, making Lakschin Head of Mission and claiming that he was accredited to the UN and not to Switzerland. Two months later he was elevated to Ambassador.
Lakschin is a Russian citizen who joined three hundred other Russians of questionable repute who were awarded Dominican passports under the disgraced Economic Citizenship program. A program that resulted in visa restrictions on Dominicans entering Canada.
Lakschin resides in Monaco but has extensive financial and business dealings in Switzerland. Dominicans could have been spared the embarrassment of world scrutiny and could have been forever kept in the dark about the appointment if it was not for the business dealings of Lakschin.
As it turns out, Lakschin was recently sued in the Swiss courts for close to a quarter million dollars, one of several cases brought against him. In an attempt to escape justice, he evoked diplomatic immunity claiming that he was still Dominica’s Ambassador. The Swiss government stood firm by their earlier decision that as a businessman, he could not be an Ambassador.
At that point, the story gets a little bizarre. Lakschin subsequently goes to Dominica and somehow convinces Foreign Minister Charles Sevarin to drag another sovereign country before the international court of justice (ICJ). A court better known for dealing with egregious human rights abuses and murderous dictators.
By all accounts, Switzerland was blind-sided by the move, and immediately lodged a complaint with Dominica. It turns out that the court of last resort suddenly became the first means of dealing with a dispute. No diplomatic note or formal complaint was launched as is the normal course of diplomatic exchanges.
Apparently, several members of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit’s Cabinet were also taken by surprise. Since the announcement by the ICJ, Dominica’s Attorney General Ian Douglas has announced his government’s intention to withdraw the case. Several Dominicans have also began to call for Sevarin’s resignation.
Interestingly, the complaint prepared by Professor Ingrid Detter Frankopan, who is listed as a member of the London bar and a Professor of International law, claims that Switzerland should “not be allowed to use colonial powers to control a small state like Dominica”.
Thankfully, the authorities in Dominica appears set on doing the right thing and withdrawing a case, which has served to draw world-wide attention on a misplaced economic citizenship policy. Surely, as s proud Nation we can do better than that and move to repair the country’s image in the eyes of the international community.