PM Gaston Browne (in dark suit at front of room left) breaks the news to Antigua & Barbuda nationals in the Bronx on Sept. 26, 2014.
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. Oct. 2, 2014: Newly-elected Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, has wasted no time making changes in the offices representing his nation in New York even though experts say at least a part of it is in direct contravention of The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the country can be fined for such action.
Browne told nationals in attendance at a town hall meeting in the Bronx Friday that the country’s consulate in New York as well as its tourist office and Mission to the UN is being merged into one and will operate as a single unit. The prime minister, who led the Antigua Labor Party to victory on June 13, 2014, is moving full steam ahead in what insiders say is a bid to save costs on overseas missions.
He also announced that a visually impaired citizen of Antigua and Barbuda, Dr. Walton Alfonso “Aubrey” Webson, will serve as the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Dr. Webson, PM Browne said, will also be the Head of the Antigua and Barbuda Office in New York with the various department heads reporting to him under the new arrangement.
Webson’s appointment takes effect from November 1st.
He also announced that Dr. Dave Ray, a known Antigua Labour Party loyalist and skilled hairdresser, will serve as the country’s Diaspora Liaison Officer.
Ray is charged with strengthening “relations with Antiguans and Barbudans in the Diaspora… to have them play an active role in the development of their homeland,” Browne said.
Meanwhile, the Antigua consulate website, abconsulateny.org/ has not been updated since 2012 and still shows Dr. McChesney Emanuel as honorary consul.
The Browne administration was challenged from many in the Antigua & Barbuda Diaspora to keep Omyma David, who served as deputy consul general to New York under the United Progressive Party government as the head of the consulate, but they have chosen not to.
Felicia Persaud, Invest Caribbean Now’s founder and chairman, was among those lobbying for the new government to keep David, who had been instrumental in creating several Caribbean Diaspora relationships and was serving as Chair of the Caricom Consular Corps at the time she was told to pack up and leave. At the time, the prime minister, Persaud told NAN, had responded to her letter in July and stated: “Appropriate arrangements are being made to appoint and reappoint ambassadors and consular officers as appropriate. Hon. Charles Fernandez is the Foreign Affairs Minister responsible for this function and he is fully committed to the enhancement of diaspora relations which will include the appointment of diaspora officers at our missions. ”
But for all the talk about his commitment to the Diaspora, sources yesterday shared with NAN an email exchange in which the PM slammed an article written by Antigua-born scholar, Dr. Isaac Newton and published here on News Americas. In the exchange, PM Browne’s charged written response was: “Perhaps, of all the necessary rebranding, we first need to rebrand the intellectual terrorists of the region, especially those in the diaspora, with their over inflated opinions about themselves. ”