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Morale low in Foreign Affairs as Makeda confirmed

Published: 
Thursday, November 16, 2017

Disgruntled employees at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs say they now feel demotivated and disrespected over the appointment of Makeda Antoine to represent this country at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG). Noting it is one of the most senior diplomatic appointments available, the workers said it should never be given to someone with no diplomatic experience.

Foreign Affairs workers, who spoke with the T&T Guardian on condition of anonymity yesterday, said there are many officers within the ministry “with the requisite qualifications and experience” who should have been considered for the appointment. But they lamented that they had no redress, “because is the politicians who decide this. It is not the first time political appointments are made, but it is unfair.”

Former diplomat Reginald Dumas also said he does not believe Antoine, who received her instrument of appointment on Tuesday, has the experience to head such an important mission.

Noting the position requires the head to deal with a number of agencies, including the World Health Organisation, UNESCO, the FAO, UN Industrial Development Organisation and International Labour Organisation, he said, “Does this person have that kind of background? On the face of it no she does not.”

He said he wished Antoine well, “because I wish Trinidad and Tobago well, but I am a little concerned.”

Speaking on CNC3’s Morning Brew, Dumas said it appeared that “we now have a reversion to the 1960s, where everybody except for one career officer, everybody else appears to be political appointees.”

This, he said, sends “an unfortunate message to the professionals in the service that their services are either not required or simply not considered suitable for Trinidad and Tobago. That is wrong, especially when you’re asking these people to brief these people going abroad. The morale in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must now be quite low.”

Dumas said while Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses confirmed appointment on Tuesday, “the lady put something on her Facebook page that she was Ambassador designate and put the cat among the pigeons. That indicates inexperience. That is a matter to be announced by the Government and not by the person concerned.”

Dumas feels there is now need for openness on how people are selected for these posts, since it seems “it’s all about political patronage.”

If there is a Joint Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, he said, “I would strongly suggest and recommend that they summon people from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs beginning with the Minister and ask some very pertinent questions about what is our foreign policy, how did we arrive at it, how do we execute the policy, who are the people we have chosen to execute, what are their backgrounds?”

Industrial relations consultant Diana Mahabir-Wyatt also expressed shock at the appointment of Antoine. She said “she will have to be dealing with some very, very delicate matters involving the heads of a number of organisations, including the international Labour Organisation, UNESCO and other international bodies we are members of. How is she going to manage, I don’t know, because she has no qualifications. She has never been in the diplomatic service and has not studied international relations.”

It was symptomatic, she said, of “people with no qualifications being appointed to positions just on the basis of their political affiliation or somebody’s friend.”

Former UN Ambassador under the People’s Partnership government, Naparima MP Rodney Charles, believes the appointment of the “inexperienced newcomer to the second most senior diplomatic appointment for this country” was just one of the reasons why Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley should dismiss Moses. The other reasons, he said, related to the failure of this country to attend this week’s climate change meeting in Bonn.