WHAT A SHAME!
By Darcel Choy Monday, July 30 2012
A call has gone out for Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to recall former Health Minister Therese Baptiste-Cornelis as Trinidad and Tobago’s (TT) Ambassador to the United Nations for an embarrassing speech she gave in Geneva, Switzerland which many yesterday said has brought shame on the country.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday expressed shock on seeing the video of Baptiste-Cornelis, who in an address at a conference on cultural diversity, rambled about how hard it was to be an ambassador, of her hate for politics, her online courtship with her husband and her relationship with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, whom she said fired her because of her war with doctors.
“I only entered the political arena because I taught the new Prime Minister. She made me Health Minister,” Baptiste-Cornelis said in the 37-minute plus speech posted on the YouTube channel of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD), where she gave a lecture on the topic “Cultural Diversity as the Fourth Policy of Sustainable Development”, on July 15.
Rowley said his jaw dropped when he saw the video clip and described Baptiste-Cornelis as an embarrassment.
“If the Prime Minister has not taken steps to remove that woman and prevent her from embarrassing the people of Trinidad and Tobago further then the Prime Minister stands further accused of being to the detriment of the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley told reporters at a press conference at Balisier House, Port-of-Spain.
“I have never in my life seen any person acting on behalf of their country or even on their own behalf, bad grammar and all, so embarrass a people. This development, symbolises and encapsulates all that is bad and wrong with the UNC coalition,” he said.
In the video Baptiste-Cornelis mentions how she met her husband over the internet under the online profile name “Tropical Bear”, spoke of her sister’s fertility, the hypocrisy of modern day Trinidadians and even offered to show off her wining skills, when explaining what is ‘a wine’.
Several senior government officials have also said they felt embarrassed after watching the video, although they declined to comment on the record out of concern of aggravating the situation further.
However, Transport Minister Chandresh Sharma, who had not seen the video but read reports about it, said, “If the comments that I read in the newspapers are accurate then it is unfortunate and not the best practice of a person in such office.”
On the micro-blogging site, Twitter, several expressed their views on the video clip.
One man questioned how Baptiste-Cornelis became an ambassador. Another said she was an embarrassment to the country.
One woman pleaded to the Prime Minister to remove Baptiste-Cornelis from the post.
“Do our nation a favour and relieve Therese Baptiste-Cornelis of that diplomatic post. Please,” she said. Several other persons said they felt ashamed that the former minister was representing the country.
Alluding to Baptiste-Cornelis’ educational background, Rowley said she has done harm to the University of the West Indies (UWI) which has produced a number of outstanding citizens.
“For the country to be presented to the world like that has done harm to the UWI brand,” he said.
On Baptiste-Cornelis’ Facebook page, it said she was a lecturer and course coordinator at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad in the field of management and business strategy from October 2003 to May 2010. In the lecture, Baptiste-Cornelis said she had taught Persad-Bissessar (when she was studying for her Master’s of Business Administration degree) and further disclosed she campaigned for Persad-Bissessar among her students in the run-up to the 2010 general election.
Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Suruj Rambachan told Newsday yesterday he saw the video and intends to refer it to the substantive minister, Winston Dookeran who is currently on leave due to illness. Rambachan said he expects Dookeran to return to work this week.
In a later statement, Rambachan said Ambassadors, High Commissioners and other diplomats, as well as staff serving at overseas Missions of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, are always expected to promote a positive image of the country at all times.
“This means that words uttered as well as personal actions and behaviour should always bring credit to Trinidad and Tobago and build a positive international profile of our nation,” he said.
Rambachan said it was expected that confidentiality will always be a hallmark practised by the country’s diplomats and they exercised good judgement and maturity when they bring into the public space matters that are internal to the government and to the country
“Diplomats representing Trinidad and Tobago are also expected to observe the highest ethical standards remembering that they serve all the peoples of TT,” he said. Former Ambassador to Ottawa, Canada Camille Robinson-Regis, said she was also shocked when she watched the video.
She said Baptiste-Cornelis was “out of line” and what she said made no sense and did not deal with the topic. She explained that the Geneva embassy was part of the United Nations structure and it was Baptiste-Cornelis was the first non-career diplomat in that posting, a fact which Baptiste-Cornelis disclosed in her speech.
“That embassy is highly important and usually career diplomats are placed there because of the technical issues that are dealt with. A diplomatic posting is very important and it reflects the Government,” she said. Robinson-Regis pointed out that nearing the end of the video, one man was seen with his head bent down and she said that epitomised what everyone felt.
“Everyone feels embarrassed, how could she do that?” she said.
Robinson-Regis was as a Cabinet minister under the Patrick Manning-led PNM administration, however, following a scandal over her expenses for fertility treatments and personal items, such as wigs, she was assigned to a diplomatic posting in Canada.