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Editorial: Falconer, Assamba: collision of nonsense

Published:Monday | June 1, 2015 | 11:07 PM

Sandrea Falconer probably needs something to be exercised about. We would hope it to be something of substance.

Ms Falconer, the minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for information, would, in that respect, have done better if she had, perhaps, sought to do something in, say, global trade in intellectual property. She could, for instance, have formulated ideas about how Jamaica might extract greater value from its intellectual creations and articulate policies for dealing with the country's enterprises that pinch other people's intellectual property.

She may claim to have done the latter: by overruling the Broadcasting Commission and giving domestic cable television providers more time to sell content they did not create, do not own, for which they have not paid and to which they have no right.

Such action may not sit well with the people at the US Trade Representative's Office or those at the World Trade Organisation with oversight for the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS), but plays well in domestic politics and is good for a few votes.

The same applies to how Ms Falconer laid a few punches to Aubyn Hill, after a low-income lender of which he is chairman and a shareholder was held responsible for money acquired for on-lending, but which the borrowers did not repay. Mr Hill is presumed a legitimate target as a chief economic adviser to the Opposition and frequent critic of the Government. He, by that definition, is in the political fray.

Criticising Aubyn Hill's stewardship of NationGrowth on social media is intellectually far less challenging than formulating trade and communication policy. It is political sport in which Ms Falconer can claim legitimate participation and from which she may score a few partisan points for her Government and party.

We can't, of course, say the same for Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, who sought to stick an obtrusive pin into Mr Hill. Her social media comment was that she hopes that lenders to Mr Hill's company "will get at least some of their money back".

Like Ms Falconer, Ms Ndombet-Assamba is a member of the People's National Party (PNP), for which she has represented in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.

But at present, and for the past three years, Ms Ndombet-Assamba has been Jamaica's high commissioner to the United Kingdom, or Jamaica's top diplomat in that country. She is a political appointee, but it is expected that once a person has received a diplomatic posting, he or she will lift herself above the hurly-burly of domestic politics.

In other words, in the country where the diplomat is appointed, she is expected to represent the policies of her country and the interest of its citizens in the host country. That representation is expected to be absent of partisan considerations.

In the case of the United Kingdom, the high commissioner's job carries an extra responsibility: she is expected be a formal representative of the Government, but a social interlocutor who, as the embodiment of Jamaica, engages fully with the diaspora, regardless of political affiliation.

Ms Ndombet-Assamba, in that sense, missed the plot. Her boss, Mr A.J. Nicholson, should let her no know.

Clarification: In the story carried in The Gleaner on Monday, June 1  titled ‘Falconer blasts Aubyn Hill’s financial expertise’, Sandrea Falconer, minister with responsibility for information, was speaking in her capacity as a shareholder of NationGrowth Micro-finance, referred to in the story.