Editorial

Just so we don't wash our dirty linen in public

Thursday, May 03, 2012    

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WE have taken note of the Opposition's call on the Government to justify its reasons for recalling several foreign mission heads in the four months since it took office in January this year.

By doing so, Senator Christopher Tufton, the spokesperson on foreign affairs, foreign trade and investment, has suggested that some of the diplomats were recalled ahead of their contracts expiring.

We obviously cannot pre-empt the explanation that will be given by Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Senator A J Nicholson, but we are anxious that he should respond as quickly as possible and with as much clarity as he can command, in order to avoid a drawn out dispute which could result in washing our dirty linen

in public.

Senator Nicholson has just returned from official business abroad that took him to Kuwait where he participated in the opening of Jamaica's embassy there and he was part of our delegation to the Doha, Qatar, session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Now that he is back, we commend this issue to his immediate attention.

Dr Tufton has also urged the Administration to disclose the identities of mission heads who have been recalled in the period, as well as 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.

Additionally, he has asked that the nation be told "the policy reasons for recalling a head of mission before the expiration of the contract", and what is the time frame within which the individuals who have been recalled will be replaced.

These are not unreasonable questions.

Our preference is to see diplomats serving their full tenure at the overseas mission to which they have been assigned and, moving on in to new missions or returning home, in a seamless manner, without national rancour or personal ill will. That is, obviously, if nothing has happened to cause a breach in the terms of their placement.

We regard a diplomat as a sort of 'permanent' secretary' in the mission, remaining above the din of partisan politics and representing our country without fear

of favour.

Perhaps it is naive to expect this, given the fact that over the past four decades, politicians -- retiring or active -- have been dispatched as ambassadors abroad. That has given rise to speculation that the appointment was reward for long and faithful political service.

The truth is that both political parties have indulged in this practice. So, in that regard, we hope Dr Tufton will not pretend that his party is as white as the driven snow.

But most important to us, is that we do not take this issue beyond a parliamentary resolution, because the people we send overseas must command the respect of the capitals to which they are dispatched. To ensure that, the various Governments must not give the impression that diplomatic posts are among the goodies doled out for party service.

Mr Nicholson has an opportunity to

come clean.

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