Jamaican diplomats recalled

(Jamaica Observer) Opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs, foreign trade and investment, Senator Christopher Tufton says the Government must justify its reasons for recalling several foreign mission heads in the four months since it took office in January this year, some of them ahead of their contracts expiring.

In questions tabled in the Senate last Friday for answer by Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Senator A J Nicholson, Dr Tufton called on the administration to disclose the identities of mission heads who have been recalled in the period.

He also wanted the minister to indicate those who had not completed the time period stipulated by their contract and the amount of time remaining on each of the contracts or tours of duty for the individuals who have been recalled.

Senator Nicholson, who is also leader of government business in the Senate, was also asked to tell the country the reasons for the recall of those individuals as well as “the policy reasons for recalling a head of mission before the expiration of the contract”.

In the meantime, Senator Tufton has asked for an indication of the timeframe within which the individuals who have been recalled will be replaced.

He has also queried whether the Government has put in place any contingencies to prevent any fallout during the Jamaica 50 celebrations due to “any possible lack of support caused by the transitioning of mission heads”.

The Observer has learnt that former ambassador to the United States Anthony Johnson, who was sent to London to represent Jamaica as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and as non-resident ambassador to the Republic of Finland, the Kingdoms of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, and Ireland in 2010 is one of those affected by the recall. Johnson is a former Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) senator.

Others to be recalled, a source told the Observer, include former Cabinet minister and trade unionist, Clifton Stone, who was in Caracas as Jamaica’s new Ambassador to Venezuela. Stone’s assignment took effect in November of 2010. In January this year Jamaica’s first female ambassador to Washington Audrey Marks resigned, saying that the matter was “normal protocol”, leaving the Portia Simpson Miller led People’s National Party Administration free rein to select a replacement. She was sent to Washington in May 2010 by the JLP Government to replace Johnson after he was dispatched to the United Kingdom. Johnson had replaced the former PNP Cabinet minister Burchell Whiteman as Jamaica’s top diplomat to the United Kingdom.

The People’s National Party Government took office in January following the December 29, 2011 general election.

Dr Tufton told the Observer that he had raised the concerns due to the fact that the individuals had been appointed for a tenure which they should be allowed to serve. He further noted that unlike the United States where it is policy that such individuals resign when there is a change in administration Jamaica has no such protocol.

Tours of duty are for an average three years and can be renewed for another two or three years.


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