After 15 months without a consul general in New York, the Ralph Gonsalves administration in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has finally filled the position.
Selmon Walters, a former minister of government, who represented the South Central Windward constituency, has been appointed to fill the post, effective Feb. 1.
St.Vincent’s U.S. Abassador La Celia Prince confirmed Walter’s appointment, without elaboration.
Speculation was rife that the administration had delayed announcing the appointment until completion of last month’s general elections.
Walters – who held the portfolios of Minister of Social Development, Co-operatives, the Family, Gender and Ecclesiastical Affairs, and Rural Transformation, Information, Postal Services and Ecclesiastical Affairs – did not contest the December poll.
He replaces the first official consul general in New York, Cosmus Cozier, a former banker, who retired in August 2009. Cozier, an ex-Parliamentarian, had held that post from December 2001.
When the incumbent Unity Labor Party (ULP) first assumed power, following the 2001 elections, it created a separate Consulate General, splitting the Mission to the United Nations. Previously, the Mission was also responsible for consular affairs.
Observers in New York had surmised that Deputy New York Consul General Cyril “Scorcher” Thomas would replace Cozier, but Thomas gave no hint of such desire when Caribbean Life sought comment.
He, however, disclosed he is “under contract until April 2011,” adding that the hiring of the new Consul General “has had no impact” on his decision to continue to serve St. Vincent and the Grenadines or to retire.
Thomas said if Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves deems him “fit to extend” his tenure of service, he will “humbly accept his generous gesture.”
“If another worthy Vincentian is tapped for the position, I will give him/her my blessing, and thank God and the comrade for granting me the chance of a lifetime to serve on the frontline for my beloved country,” said Thomas, who is also a renowned calypsonian.
He applauded Walters for his “long and stellar record of service,” stating that he is “suitable to handle the various challenges that come with the position of consul general.
“Heading up an office in SVG [St. Vincent and the Grenadines] presents more stress and responsibility than the Consulate General of New York,” said Thomas, adding that two terms as a government minister are “more than sufficient time to condition a person to function adequately in the Diaspora.”
He also said Walters will have “little trouble, if any, adjusting to the environment in New York.”
Cozier agreed, stating that Walters will “do well.”
“I think he’s well-suited for the position,” he told Caribbean Life, before leaving last week for London, where he was expected to be personally conferred with the Member of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II.
“He has experience in government, and he understands the Civil Service,” added Cozier, referring to Walters. “So that should serve him in good stead.”
Laverne Mc Dowald-Thompson – president of the Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), the Brooklyn, New York-based umbrella Vincentian group in the United States, said her organization looks forward to continue working closely with the Consulate General.
“Over the years, we have maintained a very good working relationship with the consulate. We jointly coordinate the independence activities, and coordinate other events when necessary. For example, in November 2010, we conducted a relief drive for the people of SVG, who were affected by Hurricane Tomas,” she said.
“As I look forward to the new consul general, it is my hope that we would be able to maintain this relationship, as we continue to work together to help build our nation and to maintain our relationship with Vincentians here in the Diaspora,” added the former school teacher in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
James Cordice, former president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania, noted that Cozier had set high standards.
“Consul General Cozier was an example of an excellent choice,” he said. “His shoes will be nearly impossible to fill.
“However, we must respect, embrace and work with the new Consul General, welcome him and help him to do the best job he can,” Cordice added.