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It's official - Vasciannie going to Washington

... warms to diplomatic challenges

By HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, June 03, 2012    

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JAMAICA'S new ambassador to Washington, Professor Stephen Charles Vasciannie, is, in cricket terms, marking out his long run to bowl Jamaica into a position of greater strength on the diplomatic scene.

Fifty-two-year-old Vasciannie, himself an avid cricket fan whose ambition to represent Kingston College in the sport ended after his first 'trial' match, was formally approved as ambassador by way of letter dated May 31 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.

The noted international lawyer and Rhodes Scholar will likely take up duties in the United States capital, Washington DC, by the start of August.

"I am looking forward to representing Jamaica as the ambassador," Vasciannie told the Jamaica Observer on Friday in an exclusive interview at the Norman Manley Law School which he heads.

"I think that this is an opportunity for me to exercise my legal and other training for the benefit of the country. I think that relations between Jamaica and the United States constitute the highest level of relations for this country and, therefore, I will be anxious to provide a high level of representation in looking out for the interest of this country," Vasciannie stated.

The former Kingston College head boy and outgoing KC Board of Governors chairman replaces businesswoman Audrey Marks as head of Jamaica's most senior foreign posting.

He admitted to the Sunday Observer that although the field of diplomacy was one in which he had harboured thoughts of entering, he had not been sitting by the telephone waiting on the call that would point him in that direction.

"Because I am an international lawyer, there has always been the thought that diplomacy is an area in which I could serve. I won't say I was sitting around thinking that this is what I would want to happen, say, a year ago, but I would say that I think I am a good fit for the position," Vasciannie said, adding that while some may view his appointment with some amount of scepticism, it was handled with the highest level of professionalism.

"This is not a partisan appointment. All ambassadorial appointments are made by the government of the day. To that extent, ambassadorial appointments are political appointments, but this is not a partisan political appointment. I hope that the Government of the day has confidence in my ability to represent the country across party lines, as long as I do my job competently, efficiently and with the highest standards of integrity," he stated.

Vasciannie is looking forward to presenting the perspectives of the Jamaican government to the United States in the best way possible.

"There are a number of pronounced challenges that we have as a country and there are challenges in our relationship, so I look forward to trying to heal divisions where they have been allowed to develop and to presenting the perspective of the Jamaican government in clear and precise terms," he said.

Once a member of the New York Bar, Vasciannie has represented Jamaica at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in human rights litigation brought against the Jamaican government in the past.

He believes that his legal skills will be put to full use, what with the numerous negotiations with the Organisation of American States (OAS) which will require his expertise.

And although he might not appear on the surface to be equipped with a strong functional business background, Vasciannie is up for that challenge as well.

"All business relationships have to be founded on the basis of law, and so my career as a lawyer, which has involved some amount of business activity as well, will be helpful. But I would also point out that I have been involved in business through my work with Scotiabank Jamaica. I have been a member of the Board of Scotiabank Jamaica for about six years and I have been the chairman of Scotia Investments (formerly DBJ) for about three or four years.

"Running a law school, too, does have significant business components, especially when one is trying to bring about change within the law school system," Vasciannie said.

Vasciannie holds a PhD in International Law from the University of Oxford, a Master's degree in international law from the University of Cambridge (first class honours with a mark of distinction for work of special merit), a Bachelor of Arts' degree in Jurisprudence from Oxford, and a Bachelor of Science degree in economics (first class honours) from the University of the West Indies.

He won the University of the West Indies Open Scholarship in 1978, the Jamaica Rhodes Scholarship in 1981 and the Commonwealth Scholarship (Jamaica) in 1984.

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