Despite 2015 PNM manifesto promises that: “….posting to our embassies and consulates should not be seen as a mere reward for supporters of the party in government, but must be the front line of projecting the interests of Trinidad and Tobago internationally”, we are once again witness to PNM’s insincerity and deceit.
The same hypocrisy was on display when they said that under the PP government Cabinets were “too large”. Today, almost every PNM MP, except the highly qualified but inexplicably overlooked Adrian Leonce, has been favoured with high level Executive appointments. We wonder what would have been the case if there were more than 23 PNM MPs in Parliament.
MP Charles’ comment about ambassadorial postings comes in the wake of Makeda Antoine’s appointment recently, as the Ambassador to our United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG). Ms Antoine describes herself as being the “founding president of the Heliconia Foundation for Young Professionals…a pro-PNM organisation” and “Female Youth Officer for the PNM Fyzabad Constituency”.
It is clear that Dr. Rowley, opting for inexperience and more so PNM credentials, has lost all confidence in the demoralised staff of the Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, completely ignores their competencies and abilities, and has sought instead to rely almost exclusively on political appointees in his ambassadorial postings.
The UNOG is responsible for our relationships with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) among many others. The ambassador’s role at such an office involves formulating policy on political, commercial, economic, consular, immigration and international diplomacy.
MP Charles notes that to date over 95 percent of ambassadorial appointments made by the Keith Rowley Government have been political:
Dr. Amery Browne (Brazil)
Garth Chatoor (Canada)
Dr. Lancelot Cowie (Cuba)
Dave Persad (India)
Fitzgerald Jeffrey (Jamaica)
Orville London (United Kingdom)
Anthony Phillips-Spencer (Washington)
Pennelope Beckles (UN)
Makeda Antoine (UNOG)
Ideally there should exist, in our cadre of ambassadors, a delicate mix of career officers with experience in diplomacy; and also political appointees with decades of experience in the local public and private sectors. This was the case in Kamla Persad Bissessar government which had at its disposal career diplomats including: Eden Charles (UN), Anthony Edghill (Venezuela), locally based ambassadors Dennis Francis and Gerald Thompson as well as others with extensive foreign policy experience such as Chandradath Singh (India) and Patrick Edwards (Uganda).
This clueless PNM government has now added to the list of institutions compromised with politics an entire Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Institutions tainted, or attempted to be compromised, with politics include: the TTDF, the TTPS, the Integrity Commission, the Police Service Commission and according to some reports – the EBC.
MP Charles notes the number of the senior retired TTDF personnel who are now part of this executive. These include: Minister of National Security, retired Major General Edmund Dillon; Former Minister of Public Utilities and retired Brigadier General, Ancil Antoine; Brigadier General (Ret’d) Anthony Phillips-Spencer, our US Ambassador; Director of the SSA, retired Colonel George Robinson, Former ODPM Deputy Chief Executive Colonel, Dave Williams.
The compromised TTDF is now a recruiting ground for high level appointments in the Rowley administration.
We note the glaring inexperience in our present OJT Cabinet. Their cluelessness, lack of vision and inability to conceive of solutions to our problems are embarrassing. It is time that performance, qualifications, experience and meritocracy be given their just due in decision making.
Rowley’s ambassadorial appointments do not give us comfort in this regard.