Wed | Dec 13, 2017

I wanted Jamaica, says Ahmad - New British high commissioner pushed hard to be here

Published:Sunday | September 17, 2017 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue

New British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad pushed hard for the posting in Kingston as it was one he really wanted.

Ahmad, a banker who turned diplomat, told The Sunday Gleaner that he was selected from a number of candidates in the British diplomatic queue for the job.

"I wanted something different, something challenging, and something that had a closer resonance to our domestic agenda that Jamaica provides," said Ahmad.

"But it wasn't a complete throw of the dice because I have pretty strong links with the Commonwealth ... as I previously headed the Commonwealth Department," added Ahmad, who has also served in diplomatic missions in Burma, Thailand and the Philippines.

While he was unable to state the exact number of candidates seeking the post in Jamaica, Ahmad said, if the number seeking his last job in the Philippines was an indicator, then at least 17 persons pushed to come to Kingston.

According to Ahmad, a one-page manifesto was part of his pitch for the job in Jamaica.

"My opening line was that this is as much a posting relating to domestic UK issue as it is about working in a sovereign country in the Caribbean, namely Jamaica, and they looked up and said 'what do you mean by that'."

He would explain the heritage and historical connections between Jamaica and the UK and Jamaicans in the UK.

"They have as much right to expect their high commissioner to be cognisant of their representational needs, their consular needs, their business aspirations, should they have any, and a sense that the country they have some connection with is important and is given due respect," Ahmed told our news team as he explained the sales pitch he used initially.

 

Aspirations for Jamaica

 

He said the second part of the pitch saw him looking at the aspirations of the country from Jamaicans living here and those living in the UK.

Ahmad argued that young, vulnerable and business people all have aspirations, and they include tough issues such as law and order, security threats or the country's vulnerability to natural disasters.

"If you know what you are aspiring to, then you can work towards them with your partners here, and your home base. You may not achieve everything over a four-year period but every day you wake up and work towards them.

"There were others things that we talked about, but these were the top two leading themes of what I actually said.

"Essentially, what I was really saying is as a subtext of that, yes, we acknowledge our history, some of it very difficult, we acknowledge some of the controversial issues that have arisen from that history or from our current engagement, but the default position is that it's a progressive agenda," said Ahmad.

The new high commissioner has already met with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and indicated that he wants to work with the government to determine areas of convergence and focus on those most, while not discarding others that may not appear to be of importance right now.

He said among the issues discussed with Holness were educational, commercial and consular issues, and the issues relating to Brexit and the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in April next year in the UK.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com