The Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s has sought to clarify the status of the island’s Consulate Office in New York.
According to Kisha Alexander, the Press Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, the media misinterpreted statements made by Foreign Affairs Minister, Nicholas Steele about the office being downgraded.
“I am here to clarify a statement that has been out there regionally and internationally for the past few days stemming from a comment that Minister Steele would have made to one of our local journalist. It has to do with the Consul General in New York. Just to clarify, I think Mr. Steele was misinterpreted; it is not a downgrading of or closing the doors of the Consulate General in New York”, she told reporters at the weekly press briefing.
“Mr. Derek James is still Grenada’s Honorary Consul General in New York. Moving forward this is what it has been and this is what it will be. Mr. James is awaiting his documents from the US Government at which point he will officially be our Honorary Consul general, thank you”, Ms Alexander said.
The controversial report published claimed that the closure of the office was to accommodate James, Grenada’s’ recently appointed Honorary Consul General in New York.
James was earmarked in 2008 to take up the post of Consul General in New York under the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) of Tillman Thomas but the appointment was never ratified by the U.S government.
In 2012, the Tillman Thomas-led Congress administration was forced to back-off from the appointment when Washington pointed out that the appointment was inconsistent with United States law and standard Diplomatic and Consular practices.
A press statement issued by the former NDC government indicated that James is a United States citizen and this “renders him ineligible to be appointed to the position of Consul General. His citizenship would properly allow him only an appointment as Honorary Consul”.
“The government of Grenada has been aware of these circumstances for some time, and in the wake of the US State Department’s most recent representation on the matter has no alternative but to bring an end to Mr. James’ purported appointment”, the release said.
The new Press Secretary told the media that the New National Party (NNP) government of Dr. Mitchell was aware of the US Government’s requirement hence the reason James was appointed as Honorary Consul General in compliance with the US Government’s request.
Hamlet Mark, the Senior Communications Advisor to Prime Minister Mitchell, was present at the press briefing and was specifically asked why another suitably qualified Grenadian could not be appointed to the position of Consul-General and not the lesser post of Honorary Consul.
Mark who worked with Congress in the 2008 general elections and switched to NNP in the February 19 poll told the media that the reason is simple “cost”.
He explained that the substantial post of Consul General and the present post of Honorary Consul perform “basically” the same task, the difference he said is that certain protections and recognition afforded a Consul General by the US Government will not be granted to an Honorary Consul.
He said that appointing a Grenadian to take up that post of Consul General will entail the relocation of that individual and their immediate family and that can be quite costly for the Grenadian government.
In addition Mark said that keeping James in the position means that Grenada does not have to expend scarce resources to relocate him, and he is already well-known and known to deliver efficiently.
The senior Communications Advisor disclosed that the Consulate Office in New York was closed for only one day to enable some changes but it remains the office from which James would operate as the Honorary Consul.
The Grenada Embassy in Washington, headed by Ambassador Dr. Angus Friday, will now facilitate passport renewals, transfer of remains, visa information to other territories and emergency travel document.
Grenada’s last accredited Consul General in New York was Allan Mc Guire whose service ended in 2008.