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Mitchell About The Foreign Minister On Travel

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This is an excerpt from the speech to the Senate by Senator Fred Mitchell of the PLP on 28th June:

“The other aspect of the exercise of the choices is that as Minister and the PLP Government, I said to the public officials. Here is our philosophy about the Foreign Service. The Foreign Service must not just represent the A listers, those who come out with first class honours. There are to be some of them to be sure. But there have to be some from the bottom, some from middle… a mix of plodders and high fliers. The Foreign Service must reflect the cross section of society. They relate to their group and they will tell our story to the society and they will tell their story to the world. That this is a great country, where even someone like them who didn’t do well in school got a chance to represent their country.

“This was so in all travel related to the Minister. Domestic or local. Do you know the number of Bahamian foreign service officers who had before traveling with me to dispense my duties had never been to Grand Bahama or any other island in The Bahamas? Yet they were representing the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. I was deeply disappointed that the Foreign Minister would begin his tenure by apologizing for having to travel. That’s the job: Foreign Minister. I was troubled yesterday that Senator Moss would raise that as a propaganda point. I think he referenced the trip to Ethiopia and Dubai. There were cogent reasons for both.

“In the case of Ethiopia, that was the run up conference to the final climate change conference in Paris in November 2015. It was a conference for Small Island Developing States. The Prime Minister could not go, I was deputized to go. Dubai is an area where we planned to open a consulate. There is considerable potential business in the shipping area, in company registration and financial services. That’s why we were developing relations with UAE. There are almost 50 Bahamians working in Dubai. In Singapore, there about 20 Bahamians working in Singapore. Let’s not be myopic.

“And on travel when Minister Henfield travels abroad, I don’t expect him to be traveling in the back of the bus. He is the Foreign Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. He represents my country. He should have the tools to do his job. He should not have to worry about catching a taxi or hustling a ride, how he is going to pay for his food, his personal security. When he travels, his family is entitled to know that he is safe and that The Bahamas provides him with that safety and security while he is serving abroad. His wife and children should not have to concern themselves for one minute about the adequacy of where he is staying, the safety of his person, the quality of the meals and his personal security. The public officials are responsible for paying the bills. Not the minister. He has nothing to do with it or should have nothing to do with it. When he comes back home, the public officials are responsible to the country on his whereabouts, his personal safety and security. That is not his job.

“When the Commonwealth of The Bahamas cannot afford to do that, I would always tell the officials, I will stay home.”