By Political Correspondent
After reading the last issue of THE NEW TODAY newspaper, the Political Correspondent is forced to submit that it is past time for Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Business, Nicholas Steele, to go.
This is the latest in a long series of amateurish blunders and now resulting in the Chinese government to send communication to him that can best be described as “pointedly insulting in diplomat speak”, and which summarily rejected his appointees for Consul in Hong Kong.
China suggested that Mr. Steele refer to basic diplomatic protocols and the essential 2006 treaty between the two countries before making another attempt at submitting another candidate.
Previously, Steele brought chaos to another critical relationship – that of Grenada and the European Union. At a time when Grenada is on the brink of achieving visa-free entry to Europe for its people, Steele closed the Brussels diplomatic office (where critical Committee meetings are held) and allowed people unknown to Grenada to open a “privately funded” Mission in France.
The question that should be posed to Mr. Steele is this -. Privately funded by whom and for what purpose, Mr. Minister?
Neither move makes sense for Grenada, nor does the granting of diplomatic passports to his appointees in these cases. A diplomatic passport is a highly desirable commodity for both world travelers and shady characters, and Steele is reported to have given four of them to his now-rejected associates in China.
Prior to submitting their names, and in flagrant violation of diplomatic norms, the “Gang of Four” would be Hong Kong diplomats opened an “Honorary Consulate” office, complete with Grenadian emblems and flags, and announced that they would be selling Grenadian investment passports as well.
Mr. Steele – is it true that the Chinese closed that office, but the emblems still remain on the door – a continued embarrassment to Grenada?
The word on the ground is that many persons in the Cabinet have long been uneasy with Steele’s style, characterised by brashness, inexperience, and lack of concern for the views of others.
Comments from Ministry staff include his ignoring their advice and failing to keep them informed of what he plans, or what he does. Apparently, Mr. Steele submitted the names of his “Gang of Four” to the Hong Kong authorities, when a first year student in international relationships would have known that the proper authorities are in Beijing.
It is alleged that Mr. Steele opened the Hong Kong Mission before the receiving state gave its approval, and apparently he still has not asked the disgraced “Gang of Four” to return their diplomatic passports.
Prime Minister Mitchell announced in his recent speech on Grenada’s financial crisis that the newly enacted Citizenship by Investment program would bring tens of millions of dollars to Grenada’s economy.
The Prime Minister needs to be more vigilant because some of them operating on the national stage might want to believe that some of those millions should stick to the fingers of their friends and associates.
This is not idle talk – diplomatic passports are a highly desirable and expensive commodity in the world market. What did Grenada get for these diplomatic passports from the Hong Kong Four? Apparently nothing. What did Mr. Steele get? That question still awaits an answer. Who are these four? Have they ever visited Grenada? Who are the funders of the “privately funded” Mission, and why are they so generous to Grenada? All of these questions deserve answers, but Mr. Steele has provided none so far to this country.
The rejection of the Hong Kong Four is very reminiscent of another scandal, that of Eric Restenier, appointed as a diplomat by Grenada but indicted as a con artist and Ponzi scheme fraudster.
There were allegations at the time of his appointment that money passed hands and inside deals were made. There were denials by the Ministers, but as everybody knows, later events (including Wikileaks disclosure) proved that the Americans had a video-tape recording of a particular transaction at a Villa in St. Moritz, Switzerland involving Dr. Mitchell and Resteiner.
Everybody remembers how Grenada was disgraced back then. Everybody, apparently, except Minister Steele. The lesson that Prime Minister Mitchell should have learned is that when non-Grenadians are appointed as diplomatic officials, maybe he should look more closely, especially when foreign governments reject them.
If we look closely at the actions of Minister Steele, what do we find? We find “privately funded” European embassies under his watch. We find diplomatic passports being given away to people who are being rejected.
We find Grenada once again disgraced and laughed at for amateurish blunders. We find a car salesman with no experience at international affairs whose own affairs raise both eyebrows and suspicion, and who apparently thinks that he can gamble with his country’s sovereignty in the same way that he can sell a used automobile.
Enough is enough. There is no shortage of qualified candidates to project a better image of Grenada and to do a better job of diplomacy. Deputy Prime Minister Nimrod is certainly one of them. Any schoolchild could name others.
The country should call for the immediate resignation of Mr. Steele and for an investigation into the circumstances of the “private funding” of the European Mission and the Hong Kong affair. Grenada, there is no need to keep the present Minister of Foreign Affairs and his Monkey Business