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Diplomatic blunder

Hanna red-faced after issuing fake news about death of St Lucian diplomat

Thursday, October 05, 2017

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A mere six days after she was named Opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs, Lisa Hanna was left with egg on her face after a release she issued mourning the death of a St Lucian diplomat in the Las Vegas massacre turned out to be erroneous.

The statement attributed to Hanna was issued yesterday afternoon by the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) hours after St Lucia's Ambassador to the Organisation of American States Anton Edmunds rubbished the fake news in a post on his Facebook page.

Edmunds made the post at 10:52 pm Tuesday in response to news on social media that he was among the fatalities in Sunday's massacre in Las Vegas when a gunman fired on patrons at a concert, killing 58 people and himself in what is now acknowledged as the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

“So, before anyone continues to believe the false narrative that I was part of the death toll in Vegas, I was not there. I am fine, and the victims of this and other tragedies need our thoughts, prayers and support,” Ambassador Edmunds wrote.

“The writers of the false narrative need to be flogged for screwing around with my family and friends,” he added.

In her release, Hanna said she was “saddened by the tragic death” of Edmunds “and the other victims of the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada”.

“It is with regret that I learnt that the ambassador had succumbed to the injuries sustained in the incident on Sunday night which claimed 58 other victims. Ambassador Edmunds succumbed to his injuries yesterday following the shooting incident,” Hanna said.

She added that her thoughts and prayers were with his family and the Government and people of St Lucia. She also extended condolence on behalf of the PNP and “the wider Jamaican community both at home and in the Diaspora”.

However, about two hours later, Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith issued a statement countering Hanna's information.

Johnson Smith pointed to the fact that Edmunds had corrected the false report on Tuesday, and said that St Lucia's Foreign Minister Sarah Flood Beaubrun “has confirmed that their ambassador is alive and well”.

Johnson Smith said that, earlier yesterday, her Caricom foreign minister colleagues were commenting on the phenomenon of fake news and how much greater care needs to be exercised in this domain.

She underscored the need for Hanna to exercise “caution and sensitivity in pronouncing on such matters, and indeed on matters generally associated with Jamaica's foreign policy and relations”.

Johnson Smith extended her regrets to the people and Government of St Lucia for any distress caused by the statement attributed to the Opposition spokesperson.

At the same time, she joined Hanna in offering sympathies to the people of the United States, particularly the families of the victims of the Las Vegas massacre.

Last night a Government official explained that in matters of this nature a protocol is observed requiring that the information is checked and confirmed before a letter of condolence is sent to the individual's family and his/her Government before any public statement is issued.

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