Ambassador Derek James, who has been under fire from disgruntled supporters of the ruling New National Party (NNP) in New York, is to be re-assigned to a new posting in Canada.
This was one of four changes in diplomatic portfolios announced Tuesday by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen in the weekly held post-Cabinet Press briefing at the conference room of the Ministry of Works.
In addressing the local media, Minister Curwen-Modeste said the Keith Mitchell-led Government in St. George’s is considering a policy shift to limit Foreign Service term to two years.
She said four changes have been made to Grenada’s overseas representatives, including James, as part of the new thinking to rotate foreign officers after two years on the job in a given location.
The relocation of Ambassador James has come as no surprise as a number of hardcore NNP supporters in New York have voiced strong opposition to him and his close political associate, Peter David, the former Foreign Minister in the 2008-13 Congress government, who is now a card bearing member of the ruling party.
James came in for heavy criticisms after he failed to meet with a Brooklyn-based Grenadian group that was seeking answers on government’s decision to relocate Grenada’s Consulate Office from New York to Miami.
Dr. Modeste-Curwen disclosed that the embattled James, the current Ambassador for Diaspora and Humanitarians Affairs accredited to the United Nations, will be reassigned to Canada as Consul General in Toronto.
He is replacing the Honorary Consul in Toronto, Cheryl Joy Augustine-Kanu who is being promoted to the post of Grenada’s Ambassador to Brussels in Belgium.
Augustine-Kanu is the daughter of Jean Augustine, a relative of Prime Minister Mitchell and the first Grenadian black woman to be voted to sit in the Canadian Parliament.
The island’s female Foreign Minister told Foreign Minister told reporters that another top member of Congress, Karl Hood, who defected to the NNP camp in the 2013 general elections would be moved as Ambassador to China to serve as High Commissioner in London.
Local reporters did not ask Dr. Modeste-Curwen about the status of Joslyn Whiteman, the current High Commissioner to London.
Speculation is rife that Whiteman is not enjoying the best of health in recent years.
Government insiders told this newspaper that the removal of Hood has come as no surprise following complaints about some of his activities while posted in Beijing.
A top official said that an influential wing in government was pressing for the removal of Hood from the Foreign Service in light of the negative reports made about his stewardship.
The new envoy to China will be Denis Antoine, the island’s Ambassador to the United Nations based in New York.
According to Dr. Modeste-Curwen, Government believes that keeping Foreign Officers in one place for too long limit their capabilities.
“While it has been described in the Staff Orders of the Government of Grenada that staff out in foreign offices, our heads of mission and our foreign service officers should be rotated, over the years Government has not really done much in that regard”, she said.
“We find that some persons, their positions really have the term Permanent Ambassadors to this mission or to that mission and we have been reviewing that because we believe that it limits their scope just leaving our foreign officers in just one area,” she added.
The top female minister said Government also believes it is important to bring these officers back home from time to time to update them on polices to which they have not been privy.
“Policies change with Government and policies within the same Government change… they (foreign service officers) need to be very familiar with it, our way of accounting, financing and so on is very different now”, she remarked.
“…Our foreign policies change and we believe that every once in a while officers should come back to the capital or to the country to familiarise themselves…” she said.Dr. Modeste-Curwen noted that the rotation of Foreign Service officers can put some new perspective into how they view things and bring something new to diplomacy.
“We think the world is globalised, it’s a global village, when you in the UN you have to know what is happening in Timbuktu and all of that and play an integral part and make contributions.
“Our Foreign Officers are the ones who really should be guiding us based on the play of things outside there, how things are going and give us an idea as to how we should vote, how we should support, which countries are doing what and which countries provide the most support.
“They play a strategic role in promoting Government’s policies out there, engaging entities on various issues concerning Grenada but also giving feedback to the country”.
Foreign Minister Modeste-Curwen announced that the changes in the Foreign Service line-up will take effect before the end of year.