GUYANA: The tangled web of nepotism in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Opinion

The PPP/C will worsen a bad situation in the Foreign Service. Its recent engineering of changes with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has compounded and confused responsibilities within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On Monday last, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced five appointments; an offer to former Foreign Minister, Carl Greenidge to be an advisor on Borders (Frontiers); the appointment of the former Director General of the Ministry, Audrey Jardine-Waddell, as its Permanent Secretary; the reversion of the former acting, Permanent Secretary, Charlene Phoenix, as Ambassador to Caricom; the appointment of former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, as Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations; and the appointment of former Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Natural Resources, Robert Persaud as Foreign Secretary.       

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The PPP/C is fully aware that the post of Foreign Secretary was a creation of the APNU+AFC to retain the services of Carl Greenidge who had been disqualified as a Minister by virtue of his dual citizenship. The same thing happened in respect to the then Minister of State in the Ministry of the Presidency. He was disqualified from continuing as Minister and therefore was given the post of Director General.

The then leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, blasted these appointments. He was critical of the APNU+AFC Coalition for what he called the creation of new high-paying jobs for former ministers, who were forced to resign due to their dual citizenship status. This is what he said:

“So we had new Members of Parliament appointed to replace those who were dual citizens. We have a new set of Ministers, and what happened to the four Ministers? Now they have cushy high-paying jobs in the Government again, if this is not an incestuous, corrupt cabal nothing is, no one is.”

He even questioned the title of the post of Foreign Secretary. He noted that in the United Kingdom, the Foreign Secretary refers to the Minister.
Is the PPP/C now not being equally incestuous and nepotistic in retaining the post of Foreign Secretary and in it to a political operative, Persaud? Persaud has no known background in foreign relations, either by training or appointment.

Persaud’s appointment raises concerns as to his role in relation to the Foreign Minister. Will he become the de facto Minister or is it now the case where a political appointee will assume the role of the country’s chief diplomat?

The previous post of Director General was left unfilled by the APNU+AFC following a shake-up in the Ministry earlier this year. The APNU+AFC opted to appoint a career diplomat as the Permanent Secretary and to send the substantive Director General – the chief diplomat – on leave. When she returned from leave she was not restored to her post whose functions were being assumed by the newly-appointed Permanent Secretary.

A confusing situation developed. The Permanent Secretary, the administrative head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was also its Chief Diplomat. The former post should ideally be occupied by a public servant and the latter by a career diplomat.

The PPP/C has opted not to retain the post of Director General. It has appointed Waddell as the Permanent Secretary. The Permanent Secretary, the accounting officer of the Ministry, is still burdened with the functions of the former Director General. The two should never be merged.

If the Permanent Secretary will be chief diplomat and chief administrator, then what is the role of Persaud? Is he going to be a seat-warmer?
This is the type of uncertainty which results when there is a preoccupation about doling out jobs to favoured friends and family. Sufficient consideration is not being given to how the various senior offices would relate to one another.

Perhaps in his next press statement, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hugh Todd can outline exactly what are the specific responsibilities of the new Permanent Secretary, the new Foreign Secretary and his own, if he still has any, after these recent appointments.

Jagdeo is working his way down the ladder. He was a former President who is now a Vice President. And that bug is virulent because the PPP/C has appointed a former Foreign Minister as the Permanent Representative to the United Nations. This post should have been reserved for career diplomats as it represents the pinnacle of diplomatic appointments.

Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Rodrigues-Birkett, will now have to report to the chief diplomat, who is now the Permanent Secretary, Jardine-Waddell. But Rodrigues-Birkett was once the boss of Waddell.
The roles are now reversed. This is the tangled web that is weaved when nepotism is being conceived.

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Comments

  • Kman  On August 21, 2020 at 3:54 pm

    Isn’t the Minister of Foreign Affairs the chief diplomat?

  • Janet James  On August 22, 2020 at 3:01 am

    Guyana will be a laughing stock if we have incompetent, uneducated diplomats overseas .

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