Give Sehon benefit of  doubt – Camillo Gonsalves
September 30, 2014
Give Sehon benefit of doubt – Camillo Gonsalves

Sehon Marshall is the best candidate to fill the post of deputy consul general at the Consulate General in New York and should be given the benefit of the doubt.

This is the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs Camillo Gonsalves, which he expressed while addressing a town hall meeting of mainly Vincentians,{{more}} on Saturday night at the Friends of Crown Heights day care centre, in Brooklyn, New York.

Gonsalves, who was this country’s permanent representative to the United Nations for five years, however, said Marshal’s comments made on radio were “unacceptable.”

“He was trying to make a political point, but he said it very badly, because he still had on his political cap and not his diplomatic cap,” Gonsalves said, of Marshall, who was once a co-host on Star radio, which is owned by the governing Unity Labour Party (ULP).

According to Gonsalves, in St Vincent and the Grenadines, there is no diplomatic corps or a pool of people who are trained as diplomats.

“Before I came here, I was a lawyer… We don’t have anybody that we can say they have been diplomats their whole life; they know how to talk diplomatic talk. It’s something you have to learn and learn quickly. And you have to understand the sensitivities of people and understand that your job as a diplomat is not to be a politician. It is to represent every single Vincentian here,” Gonsalves said.

The Foreign Affairs Minister said while he served in the US, he never, never said “NDP or ULP.”

“It was not my job to do. There were other people who could do that… Sehon misspoke. He was being a politician, because he is not yet a diplomat. He has not yet signed a contract, but he was aware that he was being considered, so he should have put a guard on his mouth. And he should have moved from the political Sehon to the diplomatic Sehon. He is a very intelligent man, he is very qualified, very energetic and very bright, but he made a mistake,” Gonsalves added.

The Foreign Minister said a few weeks ago, he wrote a letter commenting on a statement made by Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace that this country had entered into an austerity International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme and that jobs would have to be cut.

“I said in that letter that I understand that it is easy to misspeak when you’re on live radio. I understand it’s easy to make a mistake and say something you don’t mean and I said I was willing to give the Leader of the Opposition the benefit of the doubt.

“If I am willing to give the honourable Leader of the Opposition, an economist of 70 years old, the benefit of the doubt when he’s talking about the economy, which is something he supposed to know. Surely, I should be able to give a young man, who has never served one day as a diplomat, the benefit of the doubt,” Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves said Marshall has since apologized for what he said, and he is of the belief that Marshall will serve the diaspora and St Vincent and the Grenadines very well.

“Sehon Marshall is my first hire, if he gets the job. Nobody else here came into their office under me. I have served here in New York and I want to upgrade the level of representation that St Vincent and the Grenadines provides to New York diaspora and I believe Sehon Marshall can help upgrade the level of representation,” Gonsalves stated.

On August 29, 2014, while speaking on a radio programme, Marshall argued that the quality of life of Vincentians is better under the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government of Dr Ralph Gonsalves than it was under the New Democratic Party.

Marshall said: “… I want you to tell me since the ULP has taken over in 2001, which teacher, which nurse or which policeman has resigned his or her job and gone America to babysit people children or walk people dog? That was the situation under which we existed. People resigned their government safe jobs to go walk dog and be nannies. When is the last time that happened? So, I can talk about the quality of life of people in St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Gonsalves said, “I want to say something to you with the ultimate, absolute clarity, the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines respects and honours every single Vincentian in the diaspora and all over the world and what they do to provide for themselves and families back home. I want to be very clear on that.”

The Minister also said that he has family and friends that are employed as babysitters. He said what they do is a “tremendous act of sacrifice.”

Gonsalves said these people represent the “spirit” of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“You are brave, you’re entrepreneurial, you’re hard-working and this government honours and loves and respects each and every one of you,” he said.

In the open forum following the speeches, three members of the audience, however, said they took exception to Marshall being sent to work at the Consulate General in light of what had been said.

“I am a baby sitter for 28 years and I own a two -family house and I work and take care of my family. I visit St Vincent for the last 19 years for a month and I am proud of it and I don’t want Sehon to come here to represent me here in New York, because if he already said that, you can imagine what would happen when he comes here…?” one woman said. (KW)