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Chief Minister criticised for ‘dictator’ praise

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DEPUTY Sam Mézec has criticised the Chief Minister for saying that he was ‘honoured’ to meet a man the Reform Party leader described as a ‘random dictator’.

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In a blog posting, the St Helier Member criticised Senator Ian Gorst for a tweet he posted following a meeting with Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, the Finance Minister of Bahrain, during an official visit to the Middle East. The Chief Minister said that he was ‘honoured’ to have met His Excellency Sheikh Al-Khalifa.

In his blog post, published under the headline ‘“Honoured” to meet a random dictator’, Deputy Mézec wrote: ‘Once again, our Chief Minister has gone abroad to represent the Island and meet representatives of other governments to promote Jersey. I have no problem with that.

‘Again, he has met with representatives of countries which have human rights records that are less than impressive. I also have no problem with that.

‘But what I can’t get my head around is Senator Gorst’s choice of words.’

He added: ‘The Chief Minister has met some interesting people in his line of work. Whether they be Kings and Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers, or even ordinary Jersey folk who have done extraordinary things. How does Sheikh Al-Khalifa match up to them?

‘He is not a democratic politician. He is a member of the ruling family of Bahrain which has been in charge for hundreds of years, ruling with an iron fist and having zero-tolerance for opposition.

‘Torture is widespread. Since the 2011 Arab Spring protests, a hundred dissidents have been murdered and thousands have been wounded. They even called in the Wahabist and ISIS-backing Saudi Arabian military to help them brutally put down these protests. Basically, these people are really nasty. Why is it an honour to meet someone like him? Why was this word necessary?

‘I get that part of diplomacy and politics means that you have to meet with people you disagree with. Sometimes it means meeting with nasty people if it’s for the greater good. But what is the benefit of cosying up to people and inflating their ego by acting as if there isn’t something fundamentally wrong with their agenda?

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‘Sheikh Al-Khalifa and his tyrannical family have blood on their hands. It’s not an honour to meet them. At best, it’s just business.’

The Deputy also questioned the press release sent out by the States communications unit about the visit to Bahrain, which said that Jersey had a long-standing relationship with Bahrain.

‘Apparently Jersey has a long-standing relationship with Bahrain,’ the Reform leader wrote. ‘Did you know that? I didn’t.’

Jersey Finance, which promotes the Island’s finance industry around the world, says on its website that GCC – the Gulf Co-operation Council, comprising the Gulf States of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait – was a key focus for its business development. It said: ‘The GCC is experiencing rapid growth as an emerging market and we are continuing to highlight the depth and breadth of the expertise Jersey’s finance industry can offer, particularly in the banking, private wealth management and international finance areas.’

In April, it was announced that Jersey-based trust company Crestbridge was setting up an office in Bahrain after buying a Bahrain-based trust, fund and corporate services provider.

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