In the face of mounting pressure among some Grenadians in New York, the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration in St. George’s has been forced to make concessions on the closing of the Consulate Office in the Big Apple.
According to Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen, consular service will resume in New York “in the shortest possible time.”
Modeste-Curwen told a local radio station that government has already identified someone to become the new Consul General, and was engaged in discussions with the US State Department on accreditation for the diplomat.
A group calling itself, “Grenada For Change”, has been highlighting the issue of the relocation of the Consulate office from New York to Miami under a non-national believed to be of African origin.
The group has been unsuccessful in getting meetings with government officials in the United States including the Washington-based Dr. Angus Friday to quiz them on the closure of the Consulate Office.
Foreign Minister Modeste-Curwen charged that the Mitchell-led government did not create the problem but inherited it from the previous Congress administration.
She accused the former rulers of “failing to put the necessary measures in place to provide Consulate service in New York that met the requirement of the State Department.”
This is obvious reference to the decision taken by the State Department in Washington during the 2008-13 period not to recognise the purported appointment of Derek James, a Grenadian who became a naturalized U.S citizen as the office holder.
Under U.S laws, American citizens are barred from being accredited on U.S soil to represent the interest of foreign states.
Faced with the Derick James dilemma, the Thomas government appointed a public officer to act as Consul General and James was then offered a post as Honorary Consul.
Former Banker Allen McGuire was the last accredited Consul General of Grenada in New York.
Dr. Modeste-Curwen hinted that it was an economic strain for government to immediately have the Consulate Office re-opened.
“We didn’t cause it (the problem). We met a mess …”, she told the programme and pointed to issues such as the “tough economic times”, “a lot of financial demands and needs” and “a lot of outstanding debts”.
The foreign minister hinted that the delay was due to the fact that the Mitchell government was forced to concentrate on other priority areas and not the Consulate office in New York.
“We couldn’t take it on at the time because we had so many other things to take on, and I’m sure our Diaspora in New York could well understand that very well,” she added.
The female government minister also dropped hints that those calling for the re-opening of the Consulate Office in New York had some kind of a political agenda.
Dr. Modeste-Curwen said she has found it strange that nothing was previously said about the closure of the Consulate Office until the opening of a Consulate Office in Miami.
“I think that the motive behind the initial upsurge was not an honourable one”, she said.
“…We know that some of the agitators were not genuine, but sometimes you have to not look at the negative people, at the poisonous people, but you have to look at the genuine people who have raised that concern and this is what we have done, but don’t lay the blame on the doorsteps of the New National Party Government. We didn’t create it,” she added.
One of the lead spokespersons of the New York-based group, Jennifer Thomas stressed that “Grenada For Change” is non-political, but will be a voice for change reflecting the needs of the community.
Thomas has been an activist of the NNP and Dr. Mitchell for over 30 years.
According to the island’s Foreign Minister, government has a new policy that is relevant and relative to the country’s present economic situation.
She noted that Embassies are becoming too costly to run in terms of rent and allowances to be paid.
“With that cost and the (Structural Adjustment) Programme that we’re going through, we cannot have as many Embassies and Missions operating as we, perhaps, would have liked to see,” she said.
The senior female Government Minister said her government is looking to have persons who can partner with them to provide the service and assist with financing the foreign offices.