BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – SENIOR Minister Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris has rejected an accusation in a UK newspaper that the government accepted bribes from Japan in exchange for a vote at the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
“Japan has given us aid, but it was not conditional. It is not a quid pro quo arrangement. These claims are propaganda by anti-whaling countries and NGOs, who think they are more enlightened and want to impugn our character for their own purposes,” Harris told SKNVibes.
An article published last week in The Sunday Times said an undercover investigation found that Japan had bribed small nations with cash and prostitutes to gain their support in lifting a moratorium on commercial whaling.
Reporters posing as representatives of a billionaire conservationist approached officials from St. Kitts-Nevis, Grenada, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Guinea and Ivory Coast and offered them an aid package to change their vote.
Times also reported that all the officials were willing to consider selling their votes on the IWC, with Harris reportedly promising to take the proposal to Cabinet.
Japan denied buying the votes of IWC members, contrary to a Times statement that country representatives had received cash payments, call girls and aid in exchange for supporting the Asian nation’s pro-whaling stance.
Harris, who is the Marine Resources Minister, said the article was crafted to implicate St. Kitts-Nevis in the scandal, but noted no concrete information on the Federation had been provided. He also said that the government was exploring its legal options and plans to respond promptly.
“Nothing revealed points specifically to us in a bad light. But when juxtaposed with more serious examples in that article, it leads to a discrediting of the country. We have never had any bribes with respect to IWC voting.
“Our position has always been that we will go where the science goes. We support the sustainable use of whales. If science shows that the marine life is endangered, we will vote no. If it shows there is an adequate supply, then we will encourage sustainable use.”
The Senior Minister was passionate in his defence of the Federation’s right to pursue its own agenda, saying it was “reprehensible” for external powers to try to dictate national foreign policy.
The 88-member IWC will meet in Morocco later this month to decide if the 24-year-old freeze on commercial whaling should be removed.