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Competence waived

Published: 
Sunday, April 1, 2018

The fallout of the statement made by T&T’s representative at the Organisation of American States on Dominica’s request to have its fees waived is still in full play, as we await Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s actions.

What’s clear so far is that something is not right. The Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs was quick to shift the blame to what it simply termed as a “public official” at the OAS we can only assume is a reference to the country’s Permanent Representative, retired Brigadier Anthony Phillip Spencer. However, from documents that emerged since, it seems the office not only alerted the MFA to the matter but recommended the country supported Dominica’s request.

Ambassadors are normally designated “Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.” When they speak, they speak with the full authority of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and on behalf of the country. Their pronouncements are essentially binding on the Government. They have the power to sign treaties and other agreements.

Those powers must, however, be exercised in a circumspect manner. An ambassador must await instructions before making pronouncements, especially when those pronouncements have financial or other policy implications for the country. From the documents seen so far, this is exactly what the Permanent Representative did.

There might be one positive out of this mess. At least we can now shed some light into the workings of the MFA.

Successive governments seem to have paid scant regard for our foreign service by appointing permanent secretaries with no experience in foreign relations and favouring political appointees for ambassadorships instead of career diplomats.

It also doesn’t take long to notice the frustration foreign diplomats in Port-of-Spain have with the ministry: irresponsive, unhelpful, and uninterested are just some of the words used to describe it. And they also note how Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses is conspicuous by his absence.

We live in difficult times, when the world is going through considerable uncertainties whilst our economy falters.

At such times, it is essential that we have a robust and efficient diplomatic machine, informed by a clear and well-conceived foreign policy.

We seem to have none of that, with the current leadership at the ministry failing to inspire any sense of confidence that it can handle the brief.

The problems keep piling up and the Prime Minister must start choosing between having a functioning government or keeping his allies in place at

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