Foreign Affairs Claims Ambassador’s Letter Was Fake

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced media reports which cited a letter allegedly written by Namibia’s ambassador to China Ringo Abed, to the foreign affairs permanent secretary, concerning China’s plans to establish a naval base at Walvis Bay, and described the letter as indisputably fake.

The ministry specifically mentioned The Namibian’s article on 20 January 2015, headlined “Chinese naval base for Walvis”, although a similar article was published a few days before by another English weekly.

The story highlighted the content of a confidential letter by Abed dated 22 December to foreign affaris PS Selma Ashipala-Musavyi in which Abed is quoted as saying “a [Chinese] delegation will visit Namibia … for discussions … on the way forward regarding plans for the proposed naval base in Walvis Bay”.

According to the contents of the letter, senior spokesman for China’s defence ministry Geng Yansheng, met Abed on 19 December to discuss “several issues of mutual interest and benefit”. It is the same Yansheng who rubbished reports carried in The Namibian last year of China’s plans to build overseas naval bases including one at Walvis Bay.

According to Yansheng, The Namibian had quoted an unofficial article which had been posted on the internet in 2013, and had “exaggerated and distorted the original source”.

Now, in the letter, Abed allegedly states that Yansheng noted that “China has invested heavily in Namibia as a gesture of friendship and strengthening of sisterly ties between the two countries” and that “Namibia has had problems with illegal fishing trawlers in its waters, saying that a Chinese naval presence will deter any would-be illegal trawlers and smugglers in Namibian waters”.

“Other considerations for the naval base would be for it to serve to train the Namibian navy, not only to be combat ready but to carry out civilian duties as well,” the letter reads.

Namibia’s ministry of defence and the Chinese embassy in Namibia told this newspaper that they knew nothing of the letter, and still shrugged off the information as rumours based on an old “academic discussion”.

Ashipala-Musavyi was also not available at the time The Namibian wanted to ask about the letter.

Two days after the last article was published, the ministry issued a media release in which it stated that “upon investigation” the ministry established that “no meeting ever took place” between Abed and Yansheng to discuss “as alleged in the article” and that “the letterhead purportedly used by [Abed] to the PS of foreign affairs is indisputably fake”.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to unequivocally state that there are no discussions between Namibia and China regarding the establishment by China of a naval base in Namibia,” it read. “That someone had fabricated such a story and forged the letterhead of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is a matter of serious concern to the Namibian government,” it concluded.

Further attempts to contact Abed were unsuccessful, but The Namibian understands that he arrived in Namibia recently on leave.

A scheduled NBC interview with well-known law professor, Nico Horn on the ‘Good Morning Namibia’ programme on Friday was apparently cancelled because, according to a Facebook post in Politics Watch Namibia, the foreign affairs ministry “banned all discussions on the alleged Chinese naval base at Walvis Bay”.

“On what grounds, I was not told by the editor. I was not aware that NBC interviews fall under the jurisdiction of foreign affairs. And why was a legal discussion on naval bases in foreign countries stopped? Since there is only a rumour and no confirmation that Namibia and China actually entered into some agreement, my interview could not have been more than a general discussion on the legal principle and looking at examples in other countries. So why infringe on free speech in the case of such a non-issue? Or is there something I do not know?” Horn posted.

Source : The Namibian