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Kuwait expels envoy of Philippines – MPs hail move


KUWAIT CITY, April 25: The Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that it had notified the Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa that he is persona non-grata in the country asking him to return home in a week.

The ministry, which also declared recalling the State of Kuwait Ambassador to the Philippines for consultation, said its action against the top Filipino envoy was in retaliation for undiplomatic acts by Philippine embassy staff, encouraging Filipino domestic workers to flee employers’ households.

The ministry, in an official statement, renewed its utter rejection and condemnation of the Philippine embassy “flagrant and grave breach of rules and regulations that govern diplomatic action, where staff helped Filipina house helpers run away.”

The ministry termed such illegal acts as blatant violation of the State of Kuwait law, international covenants and charters, tantamount to intervention in the state domestic affairs and meddling in jurisdictions of the security apparatuses.

These acts also constitute flagrant violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, namely Provision 41 that bars infringement on individuals’ prerogatives and immunities, respecting states’ laws and non-intervening in their local affairs.

The Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry statement noted that Philippine officials stated that the foreign ministry of the Asian nation dispatched “reinforcements to the embassy in Kuwait; comprised of seven teams affiliated with the foreign undersecretary for labor in immigration at pretext of rescuing female housemaids in Kuwait.”

“The State of Kuwait Government affirms that such acts and statements constitute explicit breach of international principles and covenants,” the official statement said.

These acts had prompted the ministry to summon the Philippine ambassador twice, lodging with him complaints expressing the State of Kuwait extreme dismay and denunciation of such dangerous transgressions, coupled with an explicit request that the embassy deliver names of the Filipinos who had committed the offense of smuggling Filipina workers in three months. “However this duration has passed without any response from the embassy.”

The Government of the State of Kuwait, represented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in line with its duties and responsibilities toward acts against the country sovereignty, regulations and security, affirms that it along with the concerned security apparatuses will continue tracking down those who assailed the country security and prosecute them according to relevant international diplomatic laws.

Therefore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to consider the Philippine ambassador to the State of Kuwait persona non-grata according to Provision 9 of the Vienna Convention, thus he must leave the country in maximum one week. Secondly, the department is calling back the Kuwaiti ambassador to the Philippines for consultation.

The ministry affirmed “determination to move from this extraordinary situation toward wider horizons of solid and joint relations as part of the historic and deep-rooted ties between the two countries.”

Furthermore, it emphasized necessity of tackling the issue “with wisdom and prudence, without any negative and harmful media sensationalism for sake of attaining the common aspiration toward distinctive and sound bilateral relations between the two friendly counties.” Kuwait and the Philippines established diplomatic relations in 1979.

Several Kuwaiti MPs, meanwhile, on Wednesday praised the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for expelling the Philippines Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa who was embroiled in the controversial issue of ‘rescuing’ what he called distressed Filipino workers from the homes of their employers.

MP Mohammed Al-Huwailah described Kuwait’s decision to expel the Philippine ambassador as a tough step taken to protect the sovereignty of the country, especially after the Philippines apologized to the State of Kuwait, the people and the government. He explained, now the ambassador is persona non grata in the State of Kuwait, and this right is guaranteed by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

In a brief statement, Ambassador Villa paid respect to the government and the people of Kuwait and said he was honored and proud as a representative of his country. He added, “It was a great honor for me to work in Kuwait.” Villa refused to comment on the decision by the Foreign Ministry to consider him persona non grata, citing Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, and requested him to leave the country within a week.

Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Issa Al-Kandari said he highly appreciates the efforts of the Foreign Ministry to expel the Philippine ambassador and recall Kuwait’s ambassador in Manila. He added, “This is a victory for the sovereignty of Kuwait and its laws and the dignity of the Kuwaiti people. We look forward to the diplomatic relations between the two countries back on track, especially with regards to Filipino workers.”

For his part, MP Abdulkarim Al- Kandari referring to the declaration of Philippines ambassador persona non grata said, “This is what we demanded in response to the violation of our sovereignty.” MP Faisal Al-Kandari thanked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for responding to “our demands to expel the Philippine ambassador from the country after his fl agrant interference in the work of the state and the lack of respect for the laws.”

MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri said the expulsion of the Philippine ambassador was a step in the right direction and the Foreign Ministry had to take it in the face of threats made by the Philippine president. He called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to accept any terms or conditions contained in the work agreement of President of the Philippines or his Foreign Secretary.

The Philippines had apologized on Tuesday for what Kuwait viewed as a “flagrant” violation of its sovereignty, with the Philippine foreign secretary saying the embassy was forced to “assist” Filipino workers who sought help as some situations were a matter of life and death. Kuwait’s foreign ministry said it had given the ambassador three days to provide the names of Filipino residents in Kuwait who had “kidnapped” domestic workers from their employers’ homes, adding it had yet to receive a response from the embassy.

Kuwaiti security forces “will continue to chase down those who violated the security of the country” and put them on trial, the ministry added in a statement. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, declined to comment on the Kuwaiti decision. Earlier, MP Mubarak Al-Hajraf a Kuwaiti has called on the government to go for an in-depth investigation to understand what he called the “circumstances of the suspicious and rapid and successive changes adopted by the (government of the) Philippines towards Kuwait,” reports Al-Qabas daily.

He went on to say, the issue of house workers is just a façade for issues such as business deals, commissions and commercial contracts between offi- cials and some sides in both countries — Kuwait and the Philippines. “What is happening is some kind of pressure in the name of dealing with house workers,” he said without going into details. Al-Hajraf made the statement after the Philippine officials in Manila and Kuwait apologized for remarks and embassy activities that were widely condemned by the Kuwaiti authorities as violation of its sovereignty and of the diplomatic norms stipulated in the Vienna Convention.

Last week, officials in the Philippines had said they have a special team in Kuwait working to rescue distressed domestic helpers from the homes of their employers and one such footage was posted in social media. In the aftermath of this the Philippines Ambassador Renato Pedro Villa was summoned Friday by the Foreign Ministry and handed two protest notes over the offensive remarks and suspicious activities. He was also summoned again on Saturday over statements he made to a Kuwaiti daily. Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Jarallah said reducing the number of Filipino diplomats in Kuwait was a possibility, while vociferous lawmakers called for more stringent action and one lawyer filed a legal suit calling for the expulsion of the ambassador.


By Abubakar A. Ibrahim Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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