Deputy Consul General Sehon Marshall. (Photo: LinkedIn)

Political activist, Sehon Marshall, who is being considered for appointment as this country’s Deputy Consul General in New York, could see his career as a diplomat ending even before it begins.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves on Tuesday told a press conference he was “sorry” about disparaging statements Marshall made within the last three weeks about the occupations and the economic circumstances of some Vincentians in the United States.

Gonsalves said Marshall will take to “Voices” on WE FM, which is hosted by Jomo Thomas (a journalist and lawyer who is also a senator and candidate for Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party –ULP) tonight (Wednesday) “to say that he misspoke and speak in terms similar to what I have said here without any polemical flourish…

“And I believe that given his energy, if the Cabinet accepts my perspective on it and the appointment goes through, I believe that the people will see his energy and they will appreciate his contribution,” Gonsalves said, confirming that Marshall is still being considered for the post.

But the Prime Minister also told the media that Marshall has told him that he would understand if he is no longer considered for the position.

Speaking on Cross Country Radio in late August, Marshall said that before the ULP came to office (in March 2001), civil servants used to quit their jobs and migrate to the United States and become nannies and dog walkers.

“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?” said Marshall, who taught school from 1991 to 1999.

He further said that some of these Vincentian migrants cannot afford to buy a ticket to return home, even as Vincentians who have stayed in SVG can go to the United States on vacation.

Related: Controversy as gov’t considers Sehon for diplomat post

Speaking at the press conference on Tuesday, Gonsalves, who was acting Minister of Foreign Affairs when Marshall made the comment, said he heard about the development when he was in Jamaica last week.

He further said that persons in SVG and overseas have telephoned him about the comments.

He said he later listened to an unedited recording of the comments and spoke to Marshall on Sunday and on Tuesday.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sen. Camillo Gonsalves sat in on part of the conversation on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said.

Diplomats must not be the news

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says diplomats should not be the news. (IWN file photo)
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says diplomats should not be the news. (IWN file photo)

The prime minister said Marshall is   qualified to serve as the nation’s Deputy Consul General in New York.

“I also would say the following things. A hallmark of an ambassador — a hallmark, not the hallmark — high commissioner, consul general or deputy consul general is that he or she must not be the news. The news must be the quality of your output of your work, whatever your job is, whatever area of diplomatic service you enter,” Gonsalves said.

He also said his Government, more than any in the history of the country, has sought to elevate the diaspora into public policy and to give especial consideration to them.

“It is incumbent on every single diplomat, whether ambassador, high commissioner, consul general or deputy consul general, to represent every single one (Vincentian). There is no differentiation between a ULP or an NDP person or a no party persons — none whatsoever! You are Vincentians, you get equal treatment — equal quality treatment. That is what we want our diplomats to do with our nationals abroad,” he told the press briefing.

“It means, therefore, that not only must an ambassador, consul general, deputy consul general, not involve in polemical political discourse, they have to avoid discussions such as what happened before the NDP came to power and before the ULP came to power.

“That’s the business of Ralph (the PM), speaking as politician, and Hans King (press secretary to PM Gonsalves), and Elson Crick (communications consultant in the Office of the Prime Minister), and if you are on radio as a talk show host and a political commentator.

“A diplomat is of a different nature,” Gonsalves said.

“So you have to treat equally and respect them, a professor, a lawyer who is a Vincentian, a doctor, construction worker, someone who sweeps the street, a clerical officer, someone who walks a dog and someone who is a domestic worker, and somebody who is a migrant from St. Vincent without proper legal status — everybody!

“And nothing disparaging must be said about any such person, in any political sense, acting as a diplomat or in relation to any category of persons. And anything said which can be reasonably interpreted as disparaging by a person who is a diplomat or hoping to be appointed as a diplomat would be seen as misspeaking.”

Marshall qualified to be a diplomat

Gonsalves spoke of Marshall’s training as a teacher, his master’s degree (in international relations), his experience as an entrepreneur and former employee of Invest SVG, the government’s investment promotion agency.

He further said Marshall is also from the bowels of North Leeward and is “a good human being” who is qualified to be deputy consul general.

But in light of the comments, Gonsalves said, it is clear that Marshall himself, “has to make the requisite corrective to this misspeaking.

“Something may be completely appropriate for a commentator to say, but not for someone who is entering the diplomatic service. And therefore care has to exercised about speaking.”

The Prime Minister, however, said it is “unfortunate that the issue has taken on, in part, a political colouration and that the entire 16 or 19 minutes of what he (Marshall) said, all what he said, is truncated for political purposes by the opposition or persons associated with the opposition.

“Well, that is part of the competitive political course,” he, however, commented.

Laud industriousness

I know that people who leave St. Vincent and the Grenadines, whatever their job which they had here, they go overseas to improve themselves and the lot of themselves. And sometimes it is difficult and you have to do work which is necessary in all the circumstances and you have planned out in your own head what you are doing and what your achievement is going to be.

“So if you have to do any job which some may consider menial, you would have in your own mind decided that it’s honest labour and would be said in some circles you are stooping to conquer, and you will conquer — you will rise,” Gonsalves said.

He said he has constituents who have left SVG and worked as domestic workers in the Untied States and help to take care of their families in SVG, and make important contributions to the United States.

“When I go to the town hall meeting, many of them would be persons who are working as domestics and in other jobs, which may not have the social status as others, but people are doing honest labour and they are not lazy. Laziness is an absence of virtue and the people who go overseas and they are working, whatever they are working at, are virtuous people, and I applaud them and this government applauds them. And everybody who is working as a diplomat or [who] is to work as a diplomat must applaud them. That is the position of the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Gonsalves holds a town hall meeting in New York with Vincentians annually, and this year’s meeting is scheduled for later this month.

Gonsalves said that in the 1950s and 60s, the Canadian government specifically recruited persons to work as domestic servants in middle and upper middle class homes, and teachers deliberately left SVG and went to Canada to work as such.

“And very quickly, their intelligence would have been made obvious to their employers, and these persons went to universities and got first degrees and masters, became very good professionals,” Gonsalves said, adding that the same thing happens in New York and other parts of the diaspora.

He further said that, as a student, he also worked at what may be called “menial jobs”.

“I never lost sight of my goal in education. And that happens to lots of Vincentians and some Vincentians are doing better than others, and that is the nature of life.  Some may feel that, ‘Boy, I was doing better at home you know; I wonder if I shouldn’t come back.’ But that is the nature of migration among all sorts of people. The vast majority of people, of course, stick it out. Some do come back before retirement, in the prime of their lives, some come back after retirement.

“Those are individual choices and we must all applaud those individual choices, and people who are overseas, they make important contributions to their communities over there and to their families here.

“And to the extent that on this matter Sehon misspoke, I am very sorry about that, and I want everyone in relation to this issue to accept the regret that I have that there was a misspeaking, a lack of clarity, and if there was any misunderstanding beyond those who are trying to make it narrowly political, I am very sorry, because there would be persons who may not have even heard the whole thing but got a little snippet or even a gist of it and say, ‘No, no; that should not have been said.’ You have that understanding, I am sorry about it,” Gonsalves said.

Sehon will learn from mistake 

“But [that] does not mean that I should as prime minister hold a young man who is qualified from a job, come from humble beginning, and throw him under the bus, metaphorically. I say no. Of course, I will discuss it with my colleagues at Cabinet tomorrow…” Gonsalves said, adding that he thinks most reasonable persons will agree with his position.

Gonsalves said that Marshall, a former co-host of the morning show on the ULP-owned radio station, Star Radio, “can have in his commentaries a sharp tongue.

 Former deputy consul-general at the SVG Consulate in New York, Edson Augustus, was fired in February. (Internet photo)
Former deputy consul-general at the SVG Consulate in New York, Edson Augustus, was fired in February. (Internet photo)

“But you have to have now more a listening ear than a sharp tongue, particularly in the position in which you are going to find yourself,” Gonsalves said.

“In a way, it is a good thing that this thing has happened to Sehon Marshall and we will see whether he learns from it or not.

“I believe that he will learn from it. There are some who doesn’t like him or who wants to see that a black eye be given to him would say, ‘Don’t send him; I don’t think he should come.’ I say reflect on what I have said. And I say this other matter. Today Sehon Marshall said to me, ‘Prime Minister, I would neither as an individual, as Sehon Marshall, or my family would feel in anyway hard put upon if the government, and you in particular, if you were to consider stopping the process for my appointment as Deputy Consul General’,” Gonsalves said.

Marshall is being considered to fill the diplomatic post, which became vacant after the government fired former deputy consul general, Edson Augustus, in February after he admitted, the government said, to taking money from persons and promising to help them source US Permanent Resident Cards.

 

17 replies on “PM ‘sorry’ diplomat-designate spoke insultingly about Vincentians in US”

  1. My problem is this, how can we trust the choice of a known and self admitted liar? and my belief that our PM doesn’t know right from wrong. How can we trust his choice of diplomat?

    Its well known that choice of people is often because the chooser sees something of himself in the choice.

    God help us!

  2. There is a lot of truth to Mr. Marshall’s comment. In fact, it is not just Vincentians who get caught up the pressure of surviving these United States of America. The system is not exactly favorable to undocumented West Indians immigrants, and we take any jobs that the system “allows” in order to survive, and to support our families…. often times, that means you “back home”. Those barrels don’t just pack themselves and catch a boat and end up in their respective destinations.

    That being said, it is the individual’s duty to excel, to challenge the status quo, to keep reaching towards their life’s goals, higher education, better paying jobs. Use whatever means there is at our disposal to propel ourselves past the babysitting, the dog walking, the dish washing (that I did)…. you get my point. This country does not exactly welcome us with open arms like they do other nationalities, other race… to say the very least.

    So Mr. Marshall is right in his limited observation, there are much more to us in the diaspora that meets the eye at first glance. We are not just dogwalkers or babysitters…we are also Teachers, Ministers, City workers (including Transit workers and NYPD) Business Owners, Information System administrators (myself) Real Estate Professionals (myself)… you get my point… so we do what we have to do to survive.

    I applaud the Vincentians who take frequent trips abroad on vacations, that is absolutely commendable, enjoy the paradise we in the diaspora greatly miss.

    1. Where is the truth in Mr. Marshall’s assessment of the baby sitters and dog walkers? People please take off the lenses, I sense political, many of us are using to analyze Marshall’s comments before putting fingers to keyboard.

      How many barrels have Marshall donated to Vincentians? Remittances? Marshall is a political operative and does not exhibit any diplomatic expediency. Do baby sitters and dog walkers in New York form lines at Money Gram in expectation of remittances from SVG?

      We in the diaspora are hard working baby sitters and dog walkers, and Marshall insulted all Vincentians when he inferred that we are scraping the barrels. For the record, we are not scraping barrels, instead we are packing and posting.

      Diplomacy calls for tact and strategy. What are the tactical or strategic benefits deriving from Marshall’s comments. Basically, MARSHALL WAS TRYING TO GET BACK AT A BABYSITTER IN NEW YORK WHO DISAGREED WITH HIM ON FACEBOOK.

      Petty at best!!!!

  3. My country is so great. I love that we can have open and honest debates. However, I trust that the debates are not pointless and ineffectual and are just to satisfy the public’s curiosity. These debates should instead lead to the best decisions (we hope).

  4. The guy didn’t make any mistake at all. It is what they have always been doing for years, they spew hate on the radio waves everyday. It just so happens that he touched on a subject that he have no idea about. People in the Diaspora bus their asses to send barrels home and to keep the country going. Those Illegal or those who are not illegal , dog walkers or babysitters we bus our asses and this guy just running his mouth for political mileage.

    I know many people who want to leave SVG but Visa requirement make it almost impossible for us now, North America is no longer easy to get to. You think it’s easy? Canada imposed Visa on us under the ULP, and the PM didn’t even find it fit to go to Canada and try to see what can be done. He goes all about the place but didn’t care much about our people in Canada. Do you all understand what it is like being a Vincentian abroad?

    You all took this thing too far. Everything is not politics, I have friends both NDP and ULP and we all agree that this guy shouldn’t come out here. What this guy said touched a sore that people who live in Vincy would never understand. Ask anyone across the board and no one want this guy to come out here. You can play politics in SVG but out here where people are already working so hard in foreign environments we do not need a guy who looks down on Vincentians.

    SEND SOMEONE ELSE.

  5. As usual, I’m confused about the PM’s words.

    First, why should he be “sorry” about the remarks of another person who currently is not part of his government. If Mr. Marshall’s comments were actually insulting to any group, it is up to him alone to apologize.

    Second, why should Mr. Marshall be sorry about saying what is true (or in this case half-true, as shown below).

    Third, what is the PM actually “sorry” about? It can’t be about some of the know facts that Mr. Marshall presented, namely that many Vincentians have to accept jobs in America they would never take at home, something that is common, even the norm, among even highly educated migrants from Third World countries.

    Fourth, is he saying he is “sorry” that Mr. Marshall falsely asserted that dog-walking and toilet cleaning among educated migrants going America ceased after the ULP gained power in 2001 (the half-truth I referred to above)? It doesn’t appear so from the entirety of the PM’s comments.

  6. It is sickening to see yet again Vincentians being insulted by individuals with some or little power under their belt. This is not the first time it is being done but it should be the last time Vincentians allow a civil servant to spit in their faces, no matter what party it’s coming from. Respect should be number one.

    Everyone who has left SVG has done so for a chance to better themselves and their family which would in return will benefit their homeland. Not expecting the large overheads of living in the USA many have fallen on hard times but they pull themselves up and get it together. This is the choice they have made once factoring in SVG’s high unemployment, high cost of living, high crime rate and little to no chance of upward mobility.

    To Sehon Marshall I would say mind your own blasted business and check outside your back door before looking over anyone elses. You do not deserve to represent the good people of the multi-island nation of SVG. I have seen these people at work here in the USA and they beam with pride to know they are taking care of themselves with a roof over their heads even when their rent is over $1000.00 U.S. per month, with a transportation pass costing $150.00 and that’s not counting in everyday expenses and home utilities.

    I remember first moving to the US and working for $13.00 per hour and going to school at the same time, There were night I ate only mac and cheese for dinner and shivered at the cold outside. I endured it all be it hard sometimes, Today I have a degree from NYU, a good family, a great job and friends. Yes it is hard in the beginning as it is in SVG everyday but these people are stronger for it and endure it all.

    For Sehon Marshall to seek to be a diplomat after his disgusting rant is offensive to the idea of him being a civil servant. This is a clear example of what bring division to SVG. His words seem to show some people don’t deserve assistance and maybe, just maybe he will run his office in the same manner choosing who to help and who to hurt.

    This has to STOP, the insulting of citizens by their political leaders need to be weeded out, everyone deserves respect and clearly Mr Marshall has little or non for some Vincentians. Mr Marshall did not misspoke he said what he meant and he should stand behind what he has said and accept the fall out. Vincentians need to exercise their power and demand his appointment be challenged. For now he should not be placed in an office with that much power to affect lives.

  7. I do hope that the Prime Minister will will listen to the voice of the people in the diaspora and remove Sehon Marshall’s name from any further consideration. A diplomat he is not.. Mr. Marshall needs to explain the reasons why he was removed from the many jobs he held in SVG. .He is a bitter man. Vincentians needs someone they can trust and respect. . Let us see if ” birds with similar feathers do flock together or show me your friends and it tells a lot about your character. .”Is Mr.Marshall the kind of friend of the Gonsalves-i.e (father and son)?

  8. Where is the truth in Mr. Marshall’s assessment of the baby sitters and dog walkers? People please take off the lenses, I sense political, many of us are using to analyze Marshall’s comments before putting fingers to keyboard.

    How many barrels have Marshall donated to Vincentians? Remittances? Marshall is a political operative and does not exhibit any diplomatic expediency. Do baby sitters and dog walkers in New York form lines at Money Gram in expectation of remittances from SVG?

    We in the diaspora are hard working baby sitters and dog walkers, and Marshall insulted all Vincentians when he inferred that we are scraping the barrels. For the record, we are not scraping barrels, instead we are packing and posting.

    Diplomacy calls for tact and strategy. What are the tactical or strategic benefits deriving from Marshall’s comments. Basically, MARSHALL WAS TRYING TO GET BACK AT A BABYSITTER IN NEW YORK WHO DISAGREED WITH HIM ON FACEBOOK.

    Petty at best!!!!

  9. I want C on to know that I’m walking a greyhound and I have my own home in SVG. I want him to tell me whose house he lives in. If you live in a glass house don’t throw stones.

  10. A warning to the Prime Minister, withdraw Mr. Marshall’s nomination. You have long relied on Vincentians in the Diaspora for support, and many have supported you. Mr. Marshall’s nomination feels like a slap in the face for many Vincentians in the Diaspora. If you want to loose that support, then you can continue with his nomination. Mr. Marshall has proven himself unqualified for the post in which he is been nominated for, so why continue with his nomination?

  11. Chantal Williams says:

    This is what happens when you think you are better than people, intrinsically and then use these beliefs to try to score political points. He is not fit for the job, not now not ever not with that arrogance and superiority complex. Particularly that he is from humble beginnings highlights this even more, let him get a dog walking job, it best suits him.

  12. James the lion monroe says:

    If the people in the diaspora still continue to support this crocked regime, even after all the insults,corruption and hardship we have endured over the years, then we are no better than the people in svg who continue to support them by giving them multiply terms. If it’s one thing that history has taught us…if people don’t learn from their past mistakes, then they are doomed to repeat the same pattern. I have a question for the ndp and the ulp alike, If no citizen has reported a lost of license plates, how did alaskie beaver samuels ended up with multiply plates to do his crimes.. what is the minister of transport and the license bureau doing… food fot thought. We don’t have to put up with this injustice no more. Next election, vote them out and if the next party does not represent the people, get rid ot them until we get it right. Power to the people of svg.

  13. Dr. Brian Charles, Esq. says:

    This is an unfortunate comment about people in the diaspora coming from someone who wants to be deputy Consul to New York. It is not a comment not shared by many Vincentian. The real question is so what if they are domestic workers, construction workers, or as was stated, dog walkers (dog walking was not even popular in the 90s). These are honest livelihoods. If our country is to move on we have to change that mindset about social status and on what is considered low level jobs. We can’t all work for the government. Many of us expect to come from St. Vincent with CXC/GCE and land a high paying jobs in America or elsewhere. The truth is you are only a high school graduate so what big job do you really expect. In St. Vincent a person with certain amount of O’ levels used to think he or she is above doing certain types of jobs. Give me a break. Again you are only a high school graduate. Moreover, don’t turn your noise up on the babysitter because a babysitter in NYC can take home a grand a week-even more than some so-called big job holders in SVG. Some of these workers in New York are the same ones who pack all the barrels and make life easier back in St. Vincent. Furthermore, folks who do these jobs usually do them temporarily while they go to school and further their education. Sometimes people stay in these positions after college because they realize that for instance, they can make more as a nanny than as an entry level position for a young college grad. So stop the America bashing and hating. America is still the place where, despite its challenges and there are many, you have so many self made millionaires. If many folks in SVG are not given a government job, they suffer because they don’t have the critical thinking and survival skills of diasporans. Additionally, there is the implication that most of the folks here are wasting time. Nothing could be further from the truth. It will blow your mind if you were made aware of the types of jobs that Vincentians in the diaspora are working in: Scientist, university heads, law school deans, judges, PHDS in civil engineering, investment bankers, car dealership owners- anything you name, a vincy does it in the diaspora. I only say The USA because this is where I live and know about. Let’s stop the division and unite. Lets stop the condescending because it is holding us back. We definitely need a mindset change to move the country forward. We need entrepreneurs, domestic, bankers, teachers, bakers, IP and app workers and some new professions to take us into the 21st century. There are vincy doing big things in the diaspora, just as there are those doing big things at home. Likewise, there vincy who are struggling in America as they should just like they are anywhere else – including in SVG. To not expect that is to be unrealistic. To exaggerate the hardship because you did not expect it to happen is to not be aware of the diversity in individual circumstances.

  14. Well these are the same occupations that enabled my parents to put my two brothers and I through college, a roof over our heads, food on the table everyday and a sense of well being and fortune. It’s these occupations that has enabled my parents to own their own homes among other assets. Aren’t these the same occupations that Vincentians abroad have that enable them to send food and money back home to their families? Aren’t these the same occupations that Vincentians abroad have that enable them to come to the rescue of Vincentians back home whenever tragedy or disaster strike? Mr. Marshall’s holier than thou attitude is a slap to the faces of many Vincentians who work hard at these occupations and in someway contribute to St.Vincent. Mr. Marshall, you are ill-suited for the job of Deputy Consul General.

  15. Very disappointed,We are a proud people and we will do anything that is legally and morally right to move forward.Look at where we started and where we are now.Its not where you come from but where you are going.every job has to be done.This guy is a Big Joke who look down on the less fortunate.I will be very very worried if someone of this character is chosen as our Dipomat. he should not even be considered. Anxiously waiting for the result. Comrade make the Right Call.

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