Political activist Sehon Marshall, who Cabinet has approved for appointment as St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Deputy Consul General in New York, has apologised for disparaging remarks he made about the occupations and the economic circumstances of some Vincentians in the United States.
Speaking on Cross Country Radio in late August, Marshall said that before the Unity Labour Party (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.
Some Vincentian at home and abroad say they were hurt by the comments, and Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said persons have called him expressing these sentiments.
Gonsalves, at a press conference on Tuesday, apologised for Marshall’s comments, but suggested that his government is still considering appointing Marshall, an international affairs graduate, to the diplomatic post.
Marshall apologised on WE FM on Wednesday when he appeared for about 40 minutes on “Voices”, a two-hour programme hosted by Jomo Thomas, a journalist and lawyer who is also a senator and candidate for the ULP.
“When I was a little boy, I used to hear the saying, even from my mother, that the road to hell would be paved with good intentions and I never understood that until I became an adult,” Marshall said.
“I am saying that in the context of some comments that have been attributed to me over the past couple of weeks made on another programme — [on] the 29th of August [and] the 5th of September, I was on another programme, another radio station, and I was making some comments, I made some very specific comments, and, regardless of my intentions, the impact of those comments, they have created some unease, some discomfort, and some hurt,” he said.
“Let me say that in making those comments, my intentions were simply this: to indicate to the person that I was interacting with, the difference in opportunity that is present here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines — as compared maybe to what was available in the 1980s, or the 1990s — mainly in opportunities for professionals.
“At no time, Jomo, did I intend to hurt, shame, diminish people’s effort, ridicule people’s effort in my statement, but I think very often I get passionate, and in that particular instance, my passion went too far and I used some words that were unnecessary, were a bit strong, the language was a bit robust, and, regrettably, the conversation was truncated to demonise me in a particular way,” Marshall said.
Asked who truncated the conversation, Marshall said: “At this point in time, Jomo, I would rather not deal specifically with that, rather to take responsibility for the comments.”
Marshall said he was taking responsibility “for the fact that my comments were misunderstood …
“As well meaning as my intentions would have been, the tone of the statements I made, the words I used came over in a particular manner. And this has nothing to do with diplomacy or a diplomat or anything of that sort. This has to do with a person acknowledging that very often it is not what was intended, but the impact of what was done, and, in this case, my words, my statements, caused damage and caused hurt for good people, for honest people who are in the diaspora, who are engaged in honest work and contributing significantly to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, causing them to feel that I was belittling them, and, for that, I am deeply –” Marshall was saying when Thomas interjected, asking a question.
Marshall said that while no one has told him directly that they were hurt by his comments, he has been monitoring the situation and people have expressed on talk radio and social media “that they felt belittled, they felt insulted; and that was never my intention.
“And, for that, Jomo, I am profoundly apologising because regardless of what a person does, I always believe, and my mother trained me this way, that honest work in honest work, and regardless of what a person does, someone engaged in honest work ought to be applauded and not ridiculed,” Marshall said.
He, however, said that it was not his intention neither did he ridicule anyone engaged in honest work.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sen. Camillo Gonsalves, told I-Witness News on Sept. 11, that Marshall was the government’s choice was the diplomatic post.
Marshall said on voices on Wednesday that he has not signed a contract with the government for the deputy consul general position.
I-Witness News has obtained a document that purports to show that Cabinet on Aug. 20, 2014 approved the appointment of Marshall as SVG’s Deputy Consul General in New York effective Sept. 1, 2014, and also approved remuneration and allowances totalling EC$125,335 annually.
However, the foreign secretary’s comments suggested that the appointment is not complete until a contract is signed.