Jamaica's new ambassador to China

— Ralph Thomas

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

Thursday, May 02, 2013

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ONE-time political aspirant, now financial consultant and university lecturer, Ralph Thomas, has been appointed Jamaica's new ambassador to the People's Republic of China, the Jamaica Observer can report.


Thomas, a senior teaching fellow at the Mona School of Business and lecturer in the Department of Management Studies at the University of the West Indies, will succeed Ambassador Courtenay Rattray, who will take up duties as Jamaica's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York next month. Rattray had been Jamaica's ambassador to China since 2008.


A career diplomat, Rattray also served as non-resident ambassador to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Vietnam, as well as non-resident high commissioner to Pakistan, Singapore and Bangladesh — duties that Thomas are expected to perform as well.


"Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller selected Thomas herself," a key Government source told the Observer yesterday.


"The prime minister sees China as Jamaica's biggest trading partner in short order and wants to send an envoy there who fully understands economics and can negotiate meaningful business deals for Jamaica," the source added.


Thomas is expected to begin his tour of duty in the world's most populous country by August of this year.


Regarded in business circles as one of the leading financial brains in Jamaica, Thomas served for 22 years as vice president/regional manager of the Bank of New York.


A graduate of Columbia University with an MBA in finance, Thomas returned to Jamaica within the last decade to contest a seat in the 2007 general election for the People's National Party, going up against seasoned Jamaica Labour Party stalwart Pearnel Charles. He, however, lost out in trying to wrest the North-Central Clarendon seat from the veteran parliamentarian.


Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade A J Nicholson could not be reached to speak on Thomas' appointment, but his deputy, Minister of State Arnaldo Brown told the Observer yesterday: "I cannot confirm that at all," in response to the question of Thomas' posting.


Countless efforts to contact Thomas for a comment, failed.


The Jamaica Government has appointed a few high-profile people to fill vacancies in missions overseas.


Former Cabinet minister in a previous PNP administration, Aloun Assamba took up duties as high commissioner to the United Kingdom last year.


Her appointment preceded that of former principal of the Norman Manley law School, Rhodes Scholar, Professor Stephen Vasciannie, who was appointed Ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of American States last July.


Vasciannie, a former deputy solicitor general, is regarded as highly non-political, although he was at one time a member of the then fledgling political party, the National Democratic Movement, at the time headed by Bruce Golding, with whom Vasciannie had a relationship that was deemed irreparable in later years.


When Golding became prime minister in 2007, he objected to the recommendation of the Services Commission to have Vasciannie serve as solicitor general, a position that was later taken up by Douglas Leys.


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