It appears that every time Economic Development Minister, Oliver Joseph opens his mouth to address sensitive and important issues that a lot of foolishness can be expected to jump out.
The minister was off the mark when he told reporters on Tuesday that the island’s image will not be tarnished due to fraud charges laid by the SEC in the United States on the Chinese investor involved in the proposed US$2 billion Mt. Hartman project.
Mr. Charles Liu is not an ordinary Chinese but is an accredited diplomat of the Government of Grenada and carries with him a diplomatic passport.
When Eric Resteiner was charged with fraud – not even yet convicted by a court and sent to prison for seven years in the United States – the island’s image was getting a beating in the international community.
If Mr. Joseph goes on the social media network right now, he will find for himself that reference is now being made to Mr. Liu and his official position with the Government of Grenada.
The Economic Development Minister is also very insensitive when he made the following remarks about the present predicament of Mr. Liu: –“…. Because he is an investor in Grenada we are concerned it may be difficult for him to raise money now for the project in Grenada”.
This Cabinet Minister is clearly implying that he is more concerned about the inability now of the Chinese investor to raise money for the project and not the damage that can be done to Grenada’s international image as a result of the fraud charge laid on one of our diplomatic representatives.
Are we telling our people that the emphasis should only be on bringing money into the country for projects and forget who is coming in with the cash as Foreign Minister Clarice Modeste-Curwen stated in the past “to feed us”?
THE NEW TODAY would readily admit that no manmade system is foolproof and cannot fall prey to undesirable elements.
Thousands of dollars were spent by the 2003-08 New National Party (NNP) government, headed by current Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to try and extricate his name from wrong-doing over allegations of accepting a bribe of US$500, 000.00 from Eric Resteiner in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
A one-man Commission of Inquiry, headed by Barbadian attorney-at-law, Dr. Richard Cheltenham, a business associate of Dr. Patrick Antoine, probed into the matter and put forward a number of recommendations to guide the island in future dealings with similar characters.
In his final report, Dr. Cheltenham asked the question – “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 Commissioner went on to make the following very important remarks:
“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.
“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.
“Non-Grenadians should not qualify for diplomatic passports. If not already in use, consideration should be given to the use of the Official Passport. (Is Charles Liu a non-Grenadian?)
“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.
“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 vetting exercise – its initiation and coordination – is one that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should control.
“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”.
Given the modus operandi of PM Mitchell and the NNP over the past 15 years, THE NEW TODAY is very doubtful that that political directorate will leave it up to the Public Officers to do their work in selecting and appointing these diplomatic representatives for the country.
A gentle reminder is the major diplomatic bungling of former Foreign Minister Nickolas Steele when he wrote the authorities in Hong Kong to appoint some Chinese as diplomats for the passport-selling scheme when the letter should have been addressed to Beijing, as Mainland China is the official authority.
Grenada will always run the risk of getting into problems with unsavoury characters when the policy emphasis is always on getting quick cash for quick fixes for the purposes of winning elections every five years.