Baptiste denies charges of bribery to assume pro-whaling stance

The Government of Antigua & Barbuda was not offered any money to change its pro-whaling stance ahead of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting scheduled for Morocco next week.

“Nobody came to me here in Antigua to offer me anything … I don’t want nothing from them,” Minister responsible for Fisheries Hilson Baptiste told The Daily OBSERVER, while responding to claims in the British media that several OECS countries, including Grenada and St Kitts are willing to accept bribes to change their pro-whaling stance.

Baptiste explained that Antigua & Barbuda has always maintained a pro-whaling perspective, even before he took up office in 2004.

“Antigua supports sustainable whaling. It is the same position that we met and it is the same position that we have taken. All I know is that we support sustainable whaling for Japan in certain parts of the world – it must be controlled and it must be managed,” the fisheries minister said.

Baptiste believes that the report was politically driven to cast a shadow of doubt on how OECS countries will vote next week at the IWC in Morocco.

He said the region’s commitment to development will not influence the votes and each country will stand for what it believes.

“Normally, what happens in the region, we vote together when we select the chairman or the president for IICA (Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture), and I’m sure when we get there we will come together and decide the way forward on our votes,” Baptiste said.

Meantime, Grenada’s Fisheries Minister Denis Lett said he was displeased and upset by media reports — described by St Kitts as a smear campaign — particularly as the OECS recently reaffirmed its position on the issue.

He said Japan has been giving assistance over the years and has built two fisheries plants in the country, and is in the process of building another. However, Lett said the buildings were not bribes.

“I’m very upset with that report that came out in the Sunday Times and I object totally because Grenada is not taking bribes from Japan for the votes. The OECS islands met in Grenada one month ago and we came out with a policy that the OECS countries said we believe in sustainable management of our marine resources,” the Grenadian minister added.

“We are not saying whaling or no whaling. We are small developing states surrounded by water and our marine resource must be for the use of our people,” he said.

Japan is seeking an end to the moratorium on commercial whaling that has been in place for the past 28 years.