An opposition MP is questioning how former pastor, Edson Augustus, who was recalled from his post last week, was selected as this country’s Deputy Consul General in New York in 2011.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Monday that Augustus was recalled after the Ministry received “sufficient confirmation” of reports that he was “involved in activities outside the scope of his employment and inimical to the interest of the Consulate General and the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.
A well-placed source, who requested anonymity, later told I-Witness News that Augustus was recalled reportedly because of his handling of the issuing of some Vincentian passports.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sen. Camillo Gonsalves, have told I-Witness News that they do not wish to comment on that allegation, saying that the government’s investigations are on-going.
Augustus was appointed a diplomat in May 2011, three months after he resigned as a Seventh Day Adventists pastor.
He did not comment publicly about allegations levelled against him leading up to and following his resignation.
Opposition lawmaker and MP for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock, speaking on the New Democratic Party’s radio station on Wednesday, raised questions about whether the Unity Labour Party government conducted due diligence on Augustus before his appointment.
Leacock said he supports the position that “it is not for us as a people, as individuals, as a country, as a nation, as a political party, to gloat over the misfortune of any individual…
“What we should focus on, though, is how we get to the stage where someone with that — I have to call it disposition, since the view is that it is not a first-time transgressor or offender — how can one with that disposition pass the selection process of a party that prides itself on due diligence?
“How can one get to the point of being well-placed in a country’s foreign service and not be checked out and examined thoroughly and carefully by the principal legislator in the land, the Prime Minister in this case, who says he is first among equals.
“And one therefore has to argue with much justification that the buck really begins and almost end with the Prime Minister, and even moreso than his son (Sen. Camillo Gonsalves), who is now in office in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
Leacock said that the foreign affairs ministry is a very important one in any cabinet around the world.
“And one has to go overboard and at great lengths to ensure that the ambassadorial representation is at the highest order,” he said.
Leacock noted that St. Vincent and the Grenadines has no career foreign service, and generally diplomats are appointed from outside the Public Service.
“Some people would argue that what is wrong with this particular appointment is that not for the first time, you have the Prime Minister going into one of the most respected and established church in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and selecting out of the church a person who has been trained to do a different kind of work, whose evangelisation was supposed to be for a different kind of soul — not the political soul, the spiritual soul, and infected, affected and then disaffected that church community,” he said.
He suggested that the country is now being negatively affected “because of what one can only determine to be political expediency, trying to win congregations, trying to manipulate the religious community to send certain signals that there is a oneness here.
“And, clearly, it hasn’t worked out, it hasn’t panned out and someone should pay a price for it. And somebody says that to the extent that this manifests itself as corruption, then the Prime Minister should be made to answer,” Leacock said.
Last July, when asked how Foreign Service personnel are selected, Prime Minister Gonsalves said he considers a person’s “competence”, which, he said, includes “a number of different criteria”.
“You may be in the Foreign Service and you are experienced and you may be able to do the job as permanent secretary, as senior assistant secretary. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to be able to do a job as a diplomat as well,” he said.