‘No reason given for my recall’: SVG Consul General to US Howie Prince

St. Vincent and the Grenadines' Consul General to the US Howie Prince
St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Consul General to the US Howie Prince addresses ceremony, in April 2021, at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn, on former NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s donation of a container of supplies for volcano-ravaged St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Photo by Nelson A. King

After confirming his recall in an official letter circulated to “colleagues” last Tuesday, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General to the United States, Howie Prince says the administration of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves did not give him any reason or reasons for his return to Kingstown.

“I was not given any reason for my recall,” Prince, who has served almost six years as Consul General to the US, told Caribbean Life in an interview. “Cabinet has the authority to appoint and recall.”

He disclosed that he was on an annual contract that was renewed at the end of May and that, this year, the government sent him a notice in late May that he will be on a “month-by-month until further notice.”

“On 24th June, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent notice that the government will recall me, and July 31 will be my last day,” Prince said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve. Retirement is what I proceed to do. I turned 60 on May 21. Time to move on.”

In his official letter, circulated widely to “colleagues” in the Diaspora and also dispatched to Caribbean Life, Prince said that the administration has replaced him with popular soca artiste, Rodney “Luta” McIntosh, who has no apparent diplomatic or civil service experience.

“The word is out, so let me confirm that the Government of SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) has recalled my appointment as St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Consul General to the USA and has appointed Mr. Rodney ‘Luta’ McIntosh as my replacement as Consul General,” said Prince, stating that his last day in office is July 31.

“This essentially signals my full retirement from the Public Service after 44 years of unbroken service, except for two and a half years (2010 – 2012 on secondment), working for the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) in Trinidad and Tobago as Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist for Latin America and the Caribbean,” he added.

“I give God thanks and praises for his Grace and Favor on me, thus allowing me to serve my country all these years in so many different capacities from my early days as a qualified assistant teacher, program producer (Ministry of Education), marketing manager (Tourism), chairman of the CDC (Carnival Development Corporation), director of NEMO (National Emergency Management Office) and finally as Consul General to the USA,” continued Prince, extending thanks to Gonsalves and his Cabinet for “the confidence placed in me to hold such prestigious positions over the last 20 years.”

He also extended “hearty thanks” to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs for “cordial and professional relationship during my five years and 10 months tenure as Consul General.

“My stint here in the USA as CG (Consul General) was made so much easier due to the respectful outreach and partnerships of many organizations and individuals in NYC (New York City) and throughout the USA (too many to be named here),” he said. “Much appreciation to you as you continue to contribute in so many tangible ways to the development of our beloved country. Please continue to rally around the Consulate and the new Consul General.”

Additionally, Prince thanked staffers of the Consulate in New York and the Embassy in Washington, D.C. for their “hard work and continuous support in ensuring the effective functioning of the Consulate during my stay as Consul General.

“To my family, I also express my sincere appreciation for your various sacrifices and for your support,” he said. “Thank you all very much.”

Though he will demit office on Jul. 31, Prince disclosed in Caribbean Life interview that he will be on “some paid leave” until end-August, when he will return home.

On immediate return to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, he said he will take “some much-needed R&R (rest and relaxation) for a while” after which he will decide what he wants to do.

In terms of his accomplishments as Consul General to the US, he said he “mended some broken relations between the Consulate and the Diaspora.

“We’ve established relationships with all the groups in the Diaspora,” he said. “I worked with these groups. I gave them letters of credentials to say they’re authentic in what they do to redound to the benefit of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

But Prince said the highlight of his tenure was “what we were able to accomplish in relations to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and COVID-19,” stating that “we sent home over 5,000 PPEs (personal protective equipment) – masks, other things, gowns.”

In addition, he said the Consulate General worked with Diaspora groups and businesses in dispatching to Kingstown container-filled relief supplies amid the explosive eruptions of La Soufriere volcano.

Prince also said that, over his tenure, the Consulate was able to secure and dispatch to Kingstown five fire trucks, obtained from Ohio and Kentucky, among other US states.

When asked about grumblings, in some quarters, about his performance, Prince said: “I have not heard about these grumblings. There will always be detractors. You forge ahead in what you have to do.

“I think I have positioned the Consulate to provide the most efficacious service to St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said. “I can’t say anybody has been turned away for any service.

“While other (Caribbean) Consulates closed down (during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic), St. Vincent and the Grenadines was providing service,” he added. “I’m confident the Consulate worked in the best interest in the Diaspora. I’m satisfied that we accomplished that mandate. I commend the staff of the Consulate for their hard work and for support during these five years.

“I prefer to highlight the good we’ve done,” Prince stressed. “I think there’s enough done. There has not been any controversy. I came, I did the job I was appointed to do, as best as possible. I am grateful for the job I was given.

“As I turn a new chapter, we turn over to the new Consul General,” he continued. “I came graciously, and I want to leave graciously.”

Prince’s immediate predecessor, Selmon Walters, a former government minister in the Gonsalves administration, was also recalled in August 2016 after serving five years.

But, despite much agitation in some quarters in New York, Prime Minister Gonsalves told Caribbean Life in an interview then that Walters was not singled out for recall.

“It’s what we’re trying to make sure that we have fresh faces everywhere,” he said. “These are people [diplomats], who have been around in excess of four to five years. The position of ambassador, in some countries, does not exceed five years. We want to ensure that we have fresh faces.

“Now, it’s time for Selmon (Walters) to go,” the Vincentian leader added. “It’s not a commentary on any particular individual.”

At the time, Gonsalves said his administration had “found a good replacement” in Prince.

“Howie Prince knows how to work with people,” he said then. “It’s difficult to find a person to work with the community.

“He (Prince) has a good temperament,” he added. “I think people in New York will like Howie Prince.”

Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sir Louis Straker had told Caribbean Life in August 2016 that Prince possessed “outstanding” managerial skills and experience, adding that Prince “will be good for the country.”

Walters’ then departure came about 2 ½ years after a major scandal erupted at the New York Consulate General involving Walters’ then deputy, Edson Augustus, a former Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor, who was recalled on Feb. 5, 2014, because of what the government said were “activities outside the scope of his employment and inimical to interests of the Consulate General and the Government and people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.”

In the wake of the scandal, then former Opposition Leader, Arnhim Eustace, called on the government to overhaul the New York Consulate General.

Eustace, a former prime minister, said then that the negative image of the New York Consulate General must be immediately changed.

At the time, Eustace also called on the government to recall Walters, saying that the alleged “scandal” had taken place on his watch.

But, even with Augustus’ long departure, Vincentians, in some quarters in the Big Apple, had reportedly been displeased with Walters’ performance.

Some also said he was “heavy-handed” in dealing with Augustus’ successor, Sehon Marshall, who, himself, had received a “hot baptism” prior to his appointment for condescendingly referring, on local radio, as a talk show host, to some nationals in New York as, among other things, “dog walkers.”

Subsequently, at a town hall meeting at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn, Walters announced, and the then new government minister Camillo Gonsalves confirmed, that Marshall was transferred to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Mission to the United Nations.

But, even with vehement criticism levelled at Walters’ tenure, Prime Minister Gonsalves said he does not place heavy emphasis on mere complaints, adding that they must be based strongly on facts.

“I like to get solid information about somebody performing,” he said.

But, in November 2017, Gonsalves recalled Marshall “for consultation” after he allegedly punched his newly-appointed diplomat wife in her face.

Police sources told the New York Post at the time that Marshall, who served as a counselor for the Permanent Mission of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations, “allegedly decked his wife, Sandra [Xandra] Marshall after a verbal fight broke out at their Canarsie [Brooklyn] house at 1:15 a.m.”

Mrs. Marshall was appointed Deputy New York Consul General, a post that her husband previously held, according to Prince.

Cops launched an investigation and found that Marshall struck his wife “with a closed fist, leaving her with a bloody lip,” the Post referred to sources as saying.

“But officers couldn’t bust the thug-in-a-suit — because he’s protected by a law forbidding prosecution of foreign diplomats in the US,” the paper said, according to sources.

Marshall allegedly left his wife with an injured hand and bloody lip, sources told the Post.

At the time, Gonsalves instructed the diplomats not to report for work until further notice, stating that his administration was treating the issue “with utmost seriousness, and is considering all the alive legal options in this matter.”

“From what I have said, you can deduce certain possible conclusions, certain outcomes, really; but, as always, we have to act sensibly, deliberately, firmly as all circumstances, and the law and the guiding principles admit,” said the Vincentian leader on Star FM, the incumbent Unity Labor Party (ULP)-owned radio station.

On Nov. 23, 2014, despite initial outcry over his would-be appointment, Gonsalves presented the embattled Marshall, then newly-appointed Deputy New York Consul General, to his compatriots, at a town hall meeting in Brooklyn.

Marshall, who officially assumed office the week before, was dogged by controversial remarks he made on local radio in August 2014 regarding jobs that he said some Vincentians in the Diaspora, particularly in the United States, hold, such as “baby-sitters” and “dog-walkers”.

As the controversy brewed, Marshall apologized for his comments, and then Foreign Affairs Minister Camillo Gonsalves, urged nationals, at a town hall meeting, at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center, to give the potential diplomat “a chance.”

The prime minister noted at the standing-room-only town hall meeting, at the same venue, that Marshall’s appointment was “clouded in controversy,” adding, however, that “Vincentians in New York, people of the Caribbean and the Diaspora should go past it (the controversy).”

The Vincentian leader said that Marshall, “has come from the barrels of the poor in Chateaubelair,” a town along the northwestern coast of mainland St. Vincent.

In his brief maiden address to nationals, at that same town hall meeting, Marshall said it was “with profound honor and deep humility that I address you today – honored to have been chosen by the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to be a consular representative here in New York; humility in the acknowledgment of the tremendous responsibility this opportunity offers to be of service to this community of Vincentians.

“I take his opportunity to thank the prime minister for imposing such confidence in me, and I assure him that this faith will not be disappointed as I pledge to perform my duties with the greatest ideals of service,” Marshall said.

Unlike the September 2014 town hall meeting, featuring Camillo Gonsalves, which ended in uproar over Marshall’s potential appointment, no one in the audience, that time around, publicly objected to Marshall’s assumption of office.

On his recall, Marshall has been serving as the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary.

Regarding the appointment of McIntosh as Prince’s successor, some in the Vincentian community in New York have already begun voicing objection over his qualifications.

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