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The Peter David turn around in foreign policy

Peter David – no longer in charge of Foreign Affairs but assigned to the Ministry of Agriculture

Fifteen years ago, Peter David was leading an onslaught against Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell which forced the Grenadian leader to set up a one-man Commission of Inquiry into the infamous alleged US$500, 000.00 briefcase bribery scandal.

Barbadian jurist Sir. Richard Cheltenham was called in to probe the allegation that Prime Minister Mitchell had collected the money in exchange for a diplomatic position as an Ambassador-at-large to convicted fraudster, Eric Resteiner.

U.S law enforcement officials have acknowledged that a videotaping of the transactions exist, but Dr. Mitchell has consistently denied the allegation, saying that he only received “approximately US$15, 000” from Resteiner as reimbursement for his travel expenses.

David who was then a member of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) journeyed to the United States to meet with a former White House official to seek his assistance in obtaining a video-tape that depicted the Resteiner/Mitchell transaction in St. Moritz, Switzerland in June 2000.

The short-lived Cheltenham inquiry concluded without finding any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Prime Minister Mitchell but made several importation recommendations including one that non-Grenadians who are appointed to serve as Honorary Consuls and Ambassadors-at-large should not qualify for diplomatic passports.

As Foreign Minister in the current NNP administration, Minister David is now linked to the appointment of at least 28 Chinese nationals as Grenada diplomats who are holding diplomatic passports.

Another former NNP Foreign Affairs Minister, Nickolas Steele had also flouted the Cheltenham recommendations and gave diplomatic passports to four persons who were rejected by China to serve as diplomats in Hong Kong.

The four are – Yanxia (Forest) Cao as Honorary Consul, Xiaguang Yang, as Ambassador-at-Large for Mobilisation of Resources for Culture, Pen-Chung Wang as Ambassador-at-large with responsibility for Trade and Investment and Nancy Yunlin Wei, Deputy Honorary Consul.

Minister Steele caused a major diplomatic embarrassment for Grenada when he misdirected the letter seeking the four appointment to the authorities in Hong Kong and not Beijing.

Minister Steele was rebuffed when the Chinese government rejected the person proposed to be appointed as Honorary Consul to Hong Kong on the grounds that it was in violation of the agreement between the two countries and that Mr. Cao was not even a resident of Hong Kong.

The move by Steele was also embarrassing as the four rejected diplomats were already handed diplomatic passports even before their rejections by China – a clear violation of the recommendations made in the Cheltenham Report.

As a public service, THE NEW TODAY reproduces a critical aspect of the Cheltenham report that focused on “the protocol governing the appointment of non-Grenadian as representatives” of Grenada:

The description of the circumstances surrounding the appointment of Eric Resteiner as a diplomatic representative of the State of Grenada implicitly speaks to the absence of any rational, coherent and viable system in place for the appointment of non-Grenadians as diplomatic representatives of the country.

What follows is a reminder of the rationale for such appointments; an explicit summary of the present weaknesses of the system and a recommendation as to how the system may be improved.

Since independence, the Government of Grenada has established Honorary Consulates in locations around the world where it has no resident/diplomatic consular representative to assist in the pursuance of its foreign policy objectives.

Broadly speaking, these objectives focused on catering to the welfare of Grenadian nationals abroad, and the exploration and exploitation of investment, commercial, trade, technical assistance and tourism opportunities which could assist in Grenada’s economic and social development.

It should be pointed out that the offices of Honorary Consul as well as Trade Commissioner have a long history and have been recognised by the Vienna Convention.

Both the limited numbers of diplomatic missions established and the appointment of Honorary Consuls and Trade Commissioners have been informed by cost considerations.

Diplomatic missions are expensive to establish and maintain, and though no precise figure has been given in evidence relating to the annual cost of maintaining missions abroad, it was agreed that the figure runs into several millions of dollars.

It does not appear that Grenada had any clearly thought-out policy reduced to writing which informed the appointment of non-Grenadians to its diplomatic service as Honorary Consuls, Trade Commissioners and Ambassadors-at-Large.

Nor does it appear that there was in place a system of careful due diligence in relation to the non-Grenadians selected to serve that would ensure that professional men who are well-equipped, with an interest in and knowledge of Grenada, and in good standing, are chosen.

The result has been that over the years, persons have been appointed who were most ill-suited and brought discredit to the country and to the positions to which they were appointed.

The inadequacy of the system and the deficiency of the due diligence mechanisms were fully exposed in the appointment of Resteiner.

Before summarising the weakness of the present system, it should be noted that on the 8th of November, 1999 the Cabinet of Grenada considered a submission by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and approved Terms of Reference for the appointment of Honorary Consuls and Ambassadors-At-Large as follows:

(1). To be knowledgeable of the host country specifically in terms of trade and finance.

(2). To initiate and mobilise foreign investment for the country in collaboration with the Grenada Industrial Development Corporation.

(3). To promote the country’s trading interest and to seek export opportunities for the country.

(4). To assist and help in raising resources for the marketing of Grenada as a tourist destination with the authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

(5). To assist in marketing Grenada’s Offshore Financial Sector.

(6). To assist, where possible, the initiation of discussions that will lead to the opening of negotiations with foreign governments to have bilateral investment treaties and double taxation treaties signed.

(7). To advise the Government of Grenada on the domestic requirements necessary to market Grenada competitively in the international community.

(8). To secure, where possible, technical assistance for the promotion of products and business activities.

(9). To provide support for Grenada’s Human Resource Development.

(10). To provide and raise financial contributions for the developmental projects in Grenada.

The Terms of Reference are broad and pretty well cover a range of activities which may properly be undertaken by those appointed, and depending on their background and the country to which they are appointed.

Apart from the requirement that those chosen ought to be knowledgeable of the host country, especially in terms of trade and (investment), no attempt has been made to identify the criteria for selection of non-Grenadians to honorary diplomatic positions.

The main weaknesses of the present system for the appointment of non-Grenadians to the diplomatic service may be summarized as follows:

(1). There was in existence for many years no definition of the role and function of Honorary Consuls, Trade Commissioners and Ambassadors-at-Large. One aspect of this has been corrected since 1996, namely, their terms of reference but the glaring omission of determining the criteria for selection remains.

(2). Those interested in serving have been able to propose themselves and be accepted. Often their claims are widely exaggerated and downright lies.

(3). There is no obvious net which embraces a wide range of individuals and organisations cast by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and which permits the Ministry to identify potential candidates of suitability.

(4). Only on rare occasions has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs either through its Head of Mission abroad or the Permanent Secretary at home interviewed persons before they were chosen.

(5). The due diligence mechanisms in place for vetting the background and suitability of persons under consideration have proven to be woefully inadequate.

(6). In so far as they exist, too much emphasis is placed on the criminal background, if any, of candidates and insufficient attention to their credit standing and suitability in other respects.

(7). There is no proper system of reporting in place by those appointed.

(8). The appointments seem to be for an indefinite duration.

(9). All of those appointed seem to have been given diplomatic passports.

(10). In so far as Economic Citizens were appointed as diplomatic representatives, there was no checking beyond that done to satisfy the requirements of economic citizenship.

(11). Those who volunteered their services often indicated to which countries they wanted to be accredited.

(12). It would appear that though the Cabinet appointed the Ambassadors-at-Large, the Minister of Foreign Affairs made the appointment to the position of Honorary Consul.

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(13). There is no mechanism whereby non-Grenadians who occupy diplomatic positions are kept up-to-date on a regular basis with developments in Grenada relevant to the discharge of their functions.

The recommendations which follow are not meant to be exhaustive. Rather they constitute some essential planks on which the re-organisation of this aspect of the public administration of the country may be structured.

The point needs to be made, too, that Grenada must not try to reinvent the wheel. Honorary Consuls and the appointment of non-nationals to the diplomatic service of some Caribbean countries have worked well, and Grenada must consider studying the mechanisms in place and the approach of countries like Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados to name but a few.

How do you get to be considered as a candidate for Honorary Consul, Trade Commissioners or Ambassador-at-Large as a non-Grenadian? The answer to this question is important, for it could exclude at the very outset a host of undesirables.

The first recommendation is that those who volunteer their services must be excluded. They almost always have an interest of their own to serve which may well be wholly inconsistent with the best interests of the country. They want the job for their own purpose not the country’s.

Reliance should be placed on a range of organisations and individuals who between them should be able to assist the country in arriving at a list of suitable candidates.

The Foreign Ministry of the host country can at times be a useful source. So, too, can the Chamber of Commerce. If a Caricom country has an Embassy in the country to which Grenada proposes to make an appointment, an approach should be made thereto.

The Caricom Embassy may or may not be able to provide names of reputable persons. An Ambassador currently serving in Grenada may have worked in the country to which the consular appointment is being considered, and he may prove to be a useful source.

It should be mentioned, too, that service organisations like Rotary and Kiwanis may be able, if approached, to make useful recommendations.

All potential candidates should be referred to the Police Department so that intensive background checks, in collaboration with INTERPOL, FBI, may be carried out to verify their bona fides in an effort to ensure that only the highest calibre of persons represent the country.

But the due diligence process should not be restricted to the initiatives of the Police. Depending on the background of the candidates, it may, for example, be useful to check with the professional body to which he belongs.

In addition, Dunn and Bradsheet may on occasions be used as well as local banks. The recently established Financial Intelligence Unit (FlU) is connected to a worldwide network of like-minded agencies called the Egmont Group, and inquires made through the FlU may be useful. So, too, may inquiries be made through the International Chamber of Commerce.

Honorary Consuls, Trade Commissioners and Ambassadors-at-Large should be under the jurisdiction of the Mission which is closest – for example Washington or New York in the United States of America or Brussels or London in Europe. They must be under the supervision of the Mission in their jurisdiction or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Grenada.

In addition, they must be obliged to report periodically on what business is being generated and the activities in which they are involved. Equally, they need to be provided with information on a regular basis – economic statements, reports of the Tourist Board, the Monetary Authority and the Industrial Development Corporation, for example, and important speeches made by Government officials.

Fortunately, in today’s world all of that can be conveniently done electronically. Those non-Grenadians appointed to the diplomatic service should be included in briefing meetings from time to time to bring them up-to-date on developments in the country and on the changing priorities and emphases of the country.

There should, too, be term limits set for those appointed. They should not be appointed for indefinite periods. This would obviously be without prejudice to Grenada terminating the appointment if circumstances so warranted, but at the outset, those appointed should know for how long they are likely to be in office.

In fact, some countries, Canada is a good example, have already introduced term limits for those appointed to honorary diplomatic positions there.

All appointments should be made by the Cabinet and non-Grenadians should not qualify for diplomatic passports. If not already in use, consideration should be given to the use of the Official Passport.

It is important that before candidates are chosen, they should be interviewed. There will be occasions when, for reasons of convenience, the interview will be conducted by the Ambassador or the High Commissioner in the jurisdiction in which the appointment is proposed.

Ideally the interview should be undertaken in Grenada and a broad-based interview panel of five (5) persons should be employed. This panel should consist of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Commissioner of Police or his nominee (not below the rank of Superintendent), a representative of the Chamber of Commerce, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and a representative of the Conference of Churches. Any two of them in addition to the Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs who is the chairperson should constitute a quorum.

The time has come to set out the criteria that should be used in the identification of Honorary Consuls, Trade Commissioners and Ambassadors-at -Large.

  • Candidates should be professional, strategically placed, highly motivated and resourceful.
  • Candidates should have an interest or affinity to Grenada, as well as knowledge of Grenada.
  • Candidates should be chosen on the basis of their status in their community and on what they can do for Grenada.
  • Candidates should be of sufficient means.
  • Candidates should be computer literate.
  • Candidates should be ‘honest, clean and committed’.

Whatever the criteria employed in the recruitment of non-Grenadians to the diplomatic service, and whoever is chosen, it is important that the process of identifying candidates, their vetting and ultimate selection be properly managed.

The due diligence exercise cannot be rushed and, depending on the candidate being checked upon and the area of the world from which he comes, the time taken will vary.

The vetting exercise – its initiation and coordination – is one that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should control.

At all times, too, the names of the persons representing the country in its Permanent Missions as Heads, as well as its Honorary Consuls, Trade Commissioners and Ambassadors-at-Large and where serving, should be known.

It was surprising indeed, to put it mildly, when a conflict arose between Mrs. Arlene Buckmire-Outram, Permanent Secretary for some fifteen (15) months in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Seepp 408-409 of the Transcripts) and Mr. Anderson Hayes who, before becoming Permanent Secretary in March of 2003, had worked in the said Ministry for over twenty (20)years, as to whether or not a list of the names of those serving abroad and where existed in the Ministry (Seep 438 of the Transcripts).

I entertain no doubt that at times there was in the Ministry a Diplomatic and Consular List with the names of Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Honorary Consuls, etc. accredited over the years from Grenada. It was not, however, updated and it was not generally known in the Ministry.

Perhaps, for the future there should be a board within the Ministry, appropriately located, which identifies the location of the Permanent Missions and their Heads. Besides, the names of the Honorary Consuls, Trade Commissioners as well as Ambassadors-at-Large should be indicated in addition to their area of jurisdiction.

The promotion of Grenada abroad and the most economical and efficient use of its diplomatic representatives whether Grenadians or non-Grenadians is an important area of the public administration of the country.

The aim must be to have a cadre of persons serving at all times whose collective efforts and standing bring credit to Grenada’s image and reputation, and practical and tangible benefits to the country as well.

Evidence led at the Inquiry suggests that new thinking is required in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. New systems of operation and management need to be put in place. In this re-ordering of affairs, the Permanent Secretary and the permanent staff of the Ministry ought to play a more confident and responsible role.