Editorial

High expectations of Professor Vasciannie, our man in Washington

Wednesday, June 13, 2012    

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THE Government of Mrs Portia Simpson Miller must be commended on selecting Professor Stephen Vasciannie of the University of the West Indies as Jamaica's next ambassador to the United States of America and permanent representative to the Organisation of American States (OAS). The former post is far more important than the latter, but the OAS is located in Washington DC, 10 minutes from the embassy building and therefore is a cost saving.

We are especially happy to note that this post, unlike several other overseas posts, has not been handed out to former politicians and party loyalists. Both political parties have been guilty of this unwise practice. Competence and experience must come before political loyalty and need for income.

Ambassador-designate Vasciannie is a lawyer specialising in international law in which he holds a PhD from the University of Oxford, a master's degree from the University of Cambridge (first class honours) and a Bachelor of Arts in jurisprudence from Oxford. His education is not confined to law as he attained a Bachelor of Science degree in economics with first class honours from the University of the West Indies. He has some exposure to practical affairs, having been a member of the board of Scotiabank Jamaica for six years and chairman of the board of Scotia Investments for four years.

We have positive expectations because Professor Vasciannie has the intellectual prowess and the adaptability to hold Jamaica's flag high in a city of world-leading experts in every field. Of course, we know that intellect is a necessary but not sufficient condition which has to be complemented with sophisticated inter-personal skills, unfailing comportment and astute exercise of political acumen. The sheltered university life does not necessarily equip an individual with these skills which the job of a diplomat requires in abundance.

Diplomats posted to Washington have to be mentally and physically nimble, thinking on their feet, as their enormous responsibility has to be carried out 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The portfolio is about everything that concerns Jamaica and Jamaicans living in the USA. Professor Vasciannie will need good support staff and must supplement the skills of the embassy staff by judiciously tapping the expertise, knowledge, experience, and contacts of Jamaicans across the United States.

The new ambassador should arrive at the post by the end of June to enable him to be involved in the planning of activities for celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Jamaica Independence across the United States. Some of these events are scheduled for dates in July. This period will be his introduction to the Jamaican Diaspora and first impressions count, especially to Jamaicans who can be harshly critical and very unforgiving.

We well recall and commend to Professor Vasciannie the words of Jamaica's longest serving ambassador to the US and OAS, Dr Richard Bernal when asked in an interview about the demands of the post: "It is not a job, it is a calling."

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