…President says changes aimed at professionalising foreign service
…determined to reduce political appointees as diplomats
By Lisa Hamilton
WHILE some have questioned the government’s announcement that it would be recalling a number of its foreign diplomats — many of whom have enjoyed extended tours of duty beyond the official limit — President David Granger has asserted that the move is in keeping with his administration’s vision to professionalise the Foreign Service.
In fact, on Wednesday, President David Granger said that his government has long made it clear that ambassadors would be appointed for three-year tenures; it was only because of the initial uncertainty as to when elections would be held that the announcement was delayed, he added.
“At the start of my presidency I had made it clear that the ambassadors who are being appointed would be there for only three years and that it was my government’s intention to professionalise the Foreign Service. That is to say to reduce or remove political appointees and to allow career officers who had been recruited to become diplomats, and have been trained and educated as diplomats, to become diplomats,” the President said.
“It so happened that the contracts of many of the ambassadors and high commissioners expired during the time there was some uncertainty about when elections would be held; and as a result of that uncertainty some of the changes were not made; but when it became certain that elections would not be held until March 2020, a decision was taken to proceed with those changes.”
Last week the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made the announcement that a decision was taken to terminate the services of a number of heads of missions.
It stated in a release: “As it is well known, the tenure of an ambassador runs to approximately three to five years. However, for a variety of reasons and factors, some of our ambassadors have been abroad for as long as two decades. This situation has become an impediment to other younger and rising foreign service officers whose performance and professional competence might require that they be appointed to the summit of the Foreign Service.”
The President reminded media operatives that is has always been his intention to reduce the appointment of persons who did not come through the foreign service; while this may be unavoidable in some cases, the professionalisation of the foreign service remains the goal.
He also noted that special consideration will be given to the appointment of heads of missions who speak the language of the country to which they are appointed.
Also, on Wednesday, the President stated that Former Director-General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Audrey Waddell, has been selected to serve as a foreign diplomat for Guyana, a higher post for which she is holds the required qualifications; one of these qualifications is ability to speak the language of the country to which she will be assigned.
“It’s not a shake-up, it is a planned change and the ambassadors and high commissioners knew that the intention of the government has always been to professionalise the service and that is being done. It is a plan that has been laid down and understood by people inside the foreign service,” he said.
“The benefits are that we’ll now have a cadre or a corps of high commissioners and ambassadors who have been in service, in most cases, over 20 years. They’re very experienced and the persons who will be taking over the missions of Guyana overseas are experienced persons. They’re not novices, they’re not apprentices and recruits, these are experienced persons. So, I think the benefits will all be in favour of Guyana’s national interest.”
The Head of State said that he does not anticipate that the change will have any negative impact for the country, as this is the typical modus operandi in most countries.
Meanwhile, the President also expounded on the appointment of Ms Soyinka Grogan as the new Permanent Secretary of the Department of the Public Service, Ministry of the Presidency, replacing Ms Karen Vansluytman-Corbin.
The President said that Vansluytman-Corbin has been chosen to serve as Permanent Secretary at the recently established Department of Energy, which is gearing up for the management of Guyana’s energy sector.
“We have, in the Ministry of the Presidency, several departments and each one of those departments has a personal permanent secretary rank. They’re most important…we felt that she’d be better suited for the Department of Energy,” he said, adding:
“There are several very important, very large departments within the Ministry of the Presidency and it is best to have persons that are permanent secretary rank helping to administer those departments.”
Grogan holds a Masters’ Degree in Social Work. She joined the Public Service as a Student Affairs Officer in 1997 and held a number of other senior positions prior to being appointed Manager, Scholarships Administration in 2014, where she worked until her current appointment.