The Organizing Committee of the Brooklyn-based Vincy Day USA last Saturday gave New York Consul General Selmon Walters his penultimate last hurrah with a send-off plaque.
The departing consul general is expected to preside over an inaugural St. Vincent and the Grenadines-Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Showcase this Saturday, Aug. 27, in Massachusetts.
Rosalind Goodluck, the treasurer of the Organizing Committee of Vincy Day USA, presented the award to Walters, who has chaired the Committee since its start, before hundreds of nationals at the annual unity picnic at Heckscher State Park in Long Island, New York.
“As many of you may know, the consul general has been recalled after five years,” Goodluck told the crowd assembled in front to the huge stage on the eastern end of the camp ground. “Vincy Day USA Committee prepared a small plaque to say good bye to the Counsel General.
“We’re going to miss you,” Goodluck told Walters. “You made the Consular office what it is here.”
In responding, Walters, a former minister in the administration of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves, said tersely: “Sometimes, you get things you don’t expect. This is a surprise.”
But despite the praises showered on the consul general by Goodluck, Walters — who will be replaced by Howie Prince, the head of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), by month’s end — has been under heavy fire in recent years.
Observers, and critics alike, claimed that Walters woefully mismanaged the office that provides consular and other services to nationals in New York, which is considered to comprise the largest concentration of Vincentians in the Diaspora.
Walters’ pending departure comes about 2 ½ years after a major scandal erupted at the New York Consulate General involving Walters’ deputy, Edson Augustus, a former Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor, who was recalled on Feb. 5, 2014, because of what the government said were “activities outside the scope of his employment and inimical to interests of the Consulate General and the government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
In recent months, Walters’ situation was exacerbated with increased criticism, in several quarters, of his stewardship.
The government, however, did not cite allegations levelled against Walters nor did it particularly single him out in its diplomatic shake-up, but it was clear, many pundits said, that the administration had to take action once and for all.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Sir Louis Straker told Caribbean Life last week, in an exclusive interview, that Walters was among three diplomats who are being recalled.
The others are ambassadors to Cuba and Venezuela Dexter Rose and Andreas Wickham, respectively.
But, despite his fate, Walters, unequivocally, has left his indentation on Vincy Day USA.
He made it his primary mission of making the annual Vincy Day USA extravaganza a success. The notion was first broached to him five years ago by popular, Brooklyn-based Vincentian entertainment promoter, Ulric “Soca” Jones, Jr., who last Saturday co-emceed, as in previous years, the cultural package, with prominent Vincentian radio personality Don Bobb.
“I am confident that this great event may outlive all of us,” said Walters in the foreword in the Vincy Day USA booklet, distributed to nationals on Saturday as they entered the park. “Committee members may come and go, but the event must remain.
“Long live Vincy Day USA!” he added. “Long live all our Vincy folks in the Diaspora and at home. May our prosperity be guaranteed by our love for each other and by our faith in the God of the universe!”
On Saturday, the committee also honored another entertainment promoter, Atiba Williams; Nolan Bulze, manager of the Brooklyn-based Solid band; retired Registered Nurse Celia Bramble, former president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Nurses Association of New York; Monica Laborde, president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Association of Massachusetts; and Dave Auguste, ground manager of Heckscher State Park.