We don’t mi­crowave high com­mis­sion­ers

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS - Kam­ina John­son Smith Kam­ina John­son Smith is min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs and for­eign trade. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com.

IREFER to your ed­i­to­rial in The Gleaner of Thurs­day, Sep­tem­ber 22, 2016, ti­tled ‘Why a UK high com­mis­sioner is ur­gent’.

In that con­text, ref­er­ence is made to the pace in ap­point­ing a new high com­mis­sioner for Ja­maica to the United King­dom. At the same time, the ed­i­to­rial speaks to the im­por­tance of hav­ing a “skilled and com­pe­tent diplo­mat” in place. It is pre­cisely for that crit­i­cal rea­son that our ad­min­is­tra­tion has not been overly hasty in putting for­ward a nom­i­na­tion and has proac­tively used the four-month hia­tus to en­sure that the per­son ul­ti­mately ap­pointed will be able to ef­fec­tively rep­re­sent all the in­ter­ests of Ja­maica and its ci­ti­zens in that of­fice.

I should also in­di­cate that the pro­ce­dures for the ap­point­ment of heads of mis­sion (am­bas­sadors and high com­mis­sion­ers) are gen­er­ally lengthy, for both the send­ing and re­ceiv­ing state. The lat­ter must, quite ap­pro­pri­ately, un­der­take its own due dili­gence, and some­times, the pe­riod is per­haps a lit­tle longer than what the send­ing state would deem de­sir­able. How­ever, I am pleased that in this in­stance, the process to­wards the ap­point­ment of a high com­mis­sioner is far ad­vanced. I am very hope­ful, there­fore, that the req­ui­site agree­ment will be granted shortly and that our high com­mis­sioner-des­ig­nate will soon as­sume du­ties in Lon­don.

In the in­terim, Ja­maica’s re­la­tions with the United King­dom and the other coun­tries un­der the purview of that mis­sion; mat­ters re­lated to the Com­mon­wealth and other in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions in Lon­don; as well as the en­gage­ment of the di­as­pora are be­ing ca­pa­bly over­seen by an ex­pe­ri­enced for­eign ser­vice of­fi­cer in the ca­pac­ity of act­ing high com­mis­sioner. Where ap­pro­pri­ate, busi­ness is pur­sued in con­sul­ta­tion with the head­quar­ters of the min­istry in Kingston.

COM­PLEX IMPLICATIONS

No­tably, one is­sue of sig­nif­i­cance that the ed­i­to­rial cites is Brexit. I can as­sure the Ja­maican pub­lic that the Gov­ern­ment is fully seized with the pos­si­ble com­plex implications for Ja­maica of the United King­dom’s de­ci­sion to with­draw its mem­ber­ship from the Euro­pean Union. For that rea­son, I have spo­ken twice pub­licly and ex­ten­sively (in­clud­ing in the Se­nate) to the is­sue. In ad­di­tion, we have been en­gag­ing in on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tions with our Bri­tish part­ners, through their high com­mis­sioner in Kingston, as well as our own rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Europe. Most im­por­tant, other op­por­tu­ni­ties for bi­lat­eral en­gage­ment on this is­sue are be­ing pur­sued at the po­lit­i­cal level.

I shall be host­ing the 24th Meet­ing of the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters of the Caribbean Fo­rum of ACP States (CAR­I­FO­RUM) here in Kingston, Oc­to­ber 3-7, in my ca­pac­ity as the cur­rent chair­per­son. Brexit will be high on that agenda, in view of its implications, not only for Ja­maica, but the wider Caribbean.

Let me also use this op­por­tu­nity to cor­rect some mis­in­for­ma­tion that was set out in an­other re­cent ed­i­to­rial, in the Ob­server, on the is­sue of the ap­point­ment of Ja­maican heads of mis­sion in var­i­ous cap­i­tals. The post of am­bas­sador in Brus­sels is clas­si­fied at the same level as that of am­bas­sador in Wash­ing­ton, DC; high com­mis­sioner in Lon­don; and per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tives in New York and Geneva, re­spec­tively. Th­ese are the most se­nior diplo­matic posts in the Ja­maican for­eign ser­vice.

In view of the high im­por­tance that your ed­i­to­rial ac­cords to the re­quire­ments of those posts, it is equally im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge that in any oc­cu­pa­tional group, the more se­nior and ex­pe­ri­enced an ap­pointee be­comes, the closer he/she gets to re­tire­ment. Of course, that should in no way prej­u­dice the qual­ity of the con­tri­bu­tion that is brought to the task at hand.

In clos­ing, I wish to as­sure the pub­lic that the staff in the Ja­maican for­eign ser­vice – whether serv­ing at home or abroad – re­mains fully com­mit­ted to ad­vanc­ing Ja­maica’s na­tional in­ter­ests and to pro­vid­ing the high­est standard of rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the na­tional, bi­lat­eral, re­gional, and mul­ti­lat­eral lev­els. In lead­ing the team, I shall con­tinue to en­sure that those stan­dards re­main op­ti­mum.

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