15 Jul 2013

Ahn Quan Saken denies being revoked as Vanuatu diplomat

7:15 pm on 15 July 2013

The Vanuatu Honorary Consul to Vietnam denies a claim by Vanuatu's Foreign Minister Edward Natapei that the government has revoked his diplomatic status.

Pascal Ahn Quan Saken says he has been in recent contact with the government and is surprised about Mr Natapei's claim that Vanuatu was struggling to track him down.

Mr Ahn Quan told Johnny Blades he has not received any indication from the Foreign Ministry about revoking his status.

AHN QUAN SAKEN: I never received any warning, any letter that I had bad conduct or I did any wrongdoing. Actually, it's the opposite because I met Minister Edward Natapei about three or four weeks ago at the embassy of Vanuatu in Belgium, and we exchanged a lot of points of view in diplomacy, especially in international diplomacy. And I think he understood very well what was my job and what was my mission for Vanuatu in the world. So for me, I was very, very surprised. I'm still a diplomat of Vanuatu. My passport is still valid. I still travel with my passport. But I would like to say that I intend to resign next month because I cannot combine both. I'm having such a successful business career, and I think to be a diplomat of Vanuatu in my field is just a liability for my professional career.

JOHNNY BLADES: Has Vanuatu politics made it difficult for you to do that job, has it?

AQS: Yes, because with this kind of statement, with this kind of mood, I belong to very serious work, which is the work of international business. I provide for upper-level and high net-worth vacations, 'cause I'm one of the biggest charter operators in the world for luxury yachts, in the region of South-East Asia, especially in Phuket, Indonesia, Singapore, Myanmar...

JB: This is through the billionaire yacht club that you charter yachts, is it?

AQS: Exactly. And I'm expanding in China, I'm expanding in Europe. That's the reason why I'm in Portugal, because the government of Portugal invited me to invest in Portugal to try to boost the yachting industry. So my responsibility for my investors and my business partners is really high, and I cannot tarnish my reputation of a businessman by the moody political environment that we have in Vanuatu. I cannot combine both anymore.

JB: Natapei has just said he was looking to review all the diplomatic appointments, not just yours, because he said there was a number of them that had been made without the officials or the minister previously following the due process. But you're saying that you haven't heard from the Vanuatu foreign ministry about their attempts to review your appointment.

AQS: It's the opposite. The same day you release the story, as a matter of fact, I received an email from the minister of foreign affairs if I would like to continue to work in Vietnam because they were very happy about my work and I was very, very active in my work. So it's a mystery for why this story came out, because I'm in an extremely good relationship with the ministry of foreign affairs. The ministry was... To tell you the truth, Johnny, I have no idea why suddenly among all the diplomats that have been appointed by the previous minister ... I understand that they have to review all those appointments, but why especially me, I was highlighted in this story? It's quite a heavy story when they said that they've sent an international alert, and if I pass any border my passport will be confiscated. This is really a heavy statement.

JB: But there's a lot of interest in you, I guess because of the yacht, but because of the all the speculation around it, which involved leaders and politicians and a lot of uncertainty. So I suppose that's where some of the interest stems from for the Vanuatu people.

AQS: Yes, I understand truly, Johnny, that there is a lot of interest on me. I just don't want to be involved anymore. A story came out just in the middle of the motion of no-confidence once again. That was by the opposition. I'm a stable businessman. And in a sense, I'm building... essentially networking for Vanuatu.

JB: In what fields? Is this in the fields of energy and carbon, like you told me previously?

AQS: Yes, I have a team of specialists with me that are specialised in monetising carbon credits for emerging countries. I expressed this project to Minister Edward Natapei at the embassy of Vanuatu in Belgium. And he was extremely delighted by this project. But, Johnny, I think I'm a bit tired of what's happening in the politics of Vanuatu. That's the reason why I expressed my intention to resign next month, and I would focus on the private sector, and especially on my yachting business, which is expanding really rapidly. I have to close the chapter of Vanuatu diplomacy. I did my best, I did my job. Maybe some people are not really grateful my job, or some people are not recognising all of what happened for Vanuatu. So I think I would prefer to resign and leave my position to somebody else.