ST GEORGE’S, Grenada — A former senator in the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration in Grenada has lambasted the “ultra-conservative approach” to external relations taken by the government of Tillman Thomas, the prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.
Thomas, who was freed from prison by the Americans when they invaded Grenada in 1983 in the midst of internal political turmoil that included the execution of then Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and others, “seems caught in a non-existent Cold War mindset,” Arley Gill said.
“(It is) a throwback of the 70s, not the kind of thinking or reasoning befitting an independent, progressive modern democracy,” added Gill, a former junior minister of information and culture.
Gill, who now writes a regular column in one of the nation’s weekly newspapers, said the prime minister’s personal obligation to the US should not be the overriding guide in determining the country’s foreign policy.
“There is a problem if that obligation, if that mindset of personal gratitude is so overriding, so overwhelming, that it guides – which it has – the foreign policy of an entire nation. We cannot run a country’s foreign policy through one’s man personal fancy that has nothing to do with the broader national interest,” Gill argues in the January 2 edition of Caribupdate Weekly.
His column is titled, “Perspective of a Comrade”.
Last May, Gill was removed from the senate and replaced by Dr George Vincent, Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture.
The same month, Karl Hood resigned as foreign minister and Prime Minister Thomas assumed the portfolio.
“The prime minister was never visionary nor audacious enough to lead the foreign policy of this emerging nation in a bold, new world,” charged Gill, who also pointed to what he described as “obvious missteps” that created problems for the government that is now about to go into a general election.
“The prime minister, for example, made many public statements which were less than diplomatic. If those did not cause damage, they did not endear certain countries to us,” Gill said.
“The situation was compounded when persons close to the prime minister made injurious foreign policy remarks; he saw nothing wrong with the remarks.”
Gill, a lawyer by profession, said last December’s firing of Derrick James as Grenada’s consul general to New York is a side issue to a wider foreign relations issue, which began to be a cause of concern with the 2010 shuffling of MP Peter David.
David was relieved of the foreign affairs portfolio in 2010. He served as tourism minister until resigning from government last April.
“Peter David had demonstrated an ability to learn quickly and seemed to be quite natural at the foreign affairs role,” said Gill. “He excelled in his short time and delivered as foreign affairs minister. But, suddenly – and for mistaken geographic reasons – he was removed from the portfolio; and, henceforth, our government took on an ultra-conservative approach to foreign affairs.”
After the removal of David from foreign affairs, said Gill, “the wheels of foreign policy initiatives, which were put in motion by the previous minister, were quickly falling off. The engagement with Venezuela, our courtship with Morocco, our outstanding friendship with China – among others – just did not seem a priority anymore.”
Gill, who with David and eight others, were expelled from the NDC last September, questioned the government’s rationale for not having ambassadors to Venezuela and China for well over a year.