Chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya says her Foreign Affairs counterpart Joe Malanji will deal with British High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet over his tweets which are disagreeing with government position on the Financial Intelligence Center, among other governance issues.
And Ambassador Malanji told News Diggers! that his ministry was going to review all the tweets that the British envoy has posted recently before issuing a statement on the matter.
Using his Twitter handle @ferguscd, High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet tweeted, Wednesday, saying it was utter nonsense for the Young African Leaders initiative (YALI) to call for the dismissal of Financial Intelligence Center director Mary Tshuma, arguing that the trends report she released to the public contained no sensitive intelligence information.
“Utter nonsense! FIC is doing a good job and is entitled to publishing trends report because it’s not sensitive intelligence,” tweeted High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet.
When contacted for a comment on the envoy’s position, Siliya said the Zambian government didn’t want to pick a fight with the British High Commissioner, but charged that he was an undiplomatic Ambassador.
“People have been sending us messages asking if we have seen what the Ambassador has been posting. But we are saying, ‘we don’t want to fight with the British Ambassador’. I think I am going to tweet right now and say that ‘as a former diplomat myself, I am aware that many diplomats have a lot of idle time’. Government’s position on FIC is supported by law not emotion,” Siliya said.
“The British High Commissioner has a lot of idle time on his hands to write all that. Like I have said, I don’t follow him myself on Twitter, but people are calling to say that there is a lot of disparaging remarks that he is posting on Twitter about our government. If indeed those remarks are there on his Twitter, then the minister of Foreign Affairs who is the right channel will engage him and deal with the matter.”
Siliya who is also Minister of Information and Broadcasting said it was undiplomatic for High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet to meddle in the sovereign affairs of the country hosting him.
“For example if the government is saying that it was illegal for the FIC to release the trends report to the public and then the British Ambassador says the FIC is in order because there was no sensitive intelligence, then that is undiplomatic to say the least,” said Siliya.
“And I can tell you that you would also find it undiplomatic for him to attack me in person since reporters asked me that he is meddling in our sovereign affairs. I represent government not myself. So if he disagrees with government position, let him see the Minister of Foreign Affairs.”
Later, Siliya also Tweeted; “Undiplomatic conduct-if British Envoy Dyet Cochrane has concerns on governance issues our diplomatic channels remain open. No one has more vested interest in our country than ourselves because we are here to stay.”
Meanwhile, Malanji said his ministry was going to issue a statement after reviewing the tweets by the British Envoy.
“I am not privy to what the High Commissioner is posting and I will be wrong to take a position when I haven’t gotten the actual tweeted information but I will make an effort to get what has been tweeted. But what I will tell you is that missions that are serving in Zambia have got the right to do a démarche to government, that’s a diplomatic channel of presenting any misgivings by the government. But if we have gone the Twitter direction, that’s a new one. But we will find out what’s on the page and then we can inform you of our position through a statement,” Malanji said.
He added that President Lungu’s administration was not shielding corruption.
“Government has put up a deliberate platform to fight corruption and at no point has President Lungu shown a characteristic which will encourage corruption in the country and it will be folly for any person to have those assertions that the President is encouraging corruption. President Lungu is a morally upright person and from the time he came into office, he’s been quite pragmatic in the implementation of all legislative objectives. So the Anti-Corruption (ACC), Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) and all other wings, have got clear autonomous operation routes,” said Malanaji.
“So it will be unfair to fault the executive because all structures are in line and there has been no influence whatsoever that has come from government to try and shield any individual. And there are even individuals that were cited to be corrupt [in the past] but immediately they moved to the opposition, everybody has removed the tag of corruption from them. Let’s be fair in the way government is labeled to be corrupt.”
Sources have told News Diggers! that the PF government is already considering steps towards revoking the British Envoy’s diplomatic status in Zambia.
“Try to call the Minister of Information or the Minister of Foreign Affairs; if they are honest, they will tell you that this Ambassador is not in good standing with the government and they want him to go. In fact, inside government, they are saying that he was declared a persona non grata in Malawi because of the same superiority complex,” said the sources referring to the 2011 diplomatic incident in Lilongwe in which High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet was quoted describing Malawi’s president Bingu wa Mutharika as “ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism,” said the source.
“So the Minister of Forign Affairs has summoned him tomorrow (today) morning and he is expected to exculpate himself over this because they (government) considered this as misconduct by a diplomat”