The exclusion of Foreign Affairs Minister Premier Mark Brantley from an official visit to Morocco is being viewed by some as yet another attempt by Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris to marginalize Mr. Brantley.
This is the opinion expressed by a former Labour Party Cabinet Minister Dwyer Astaphan.
The Prime Minister visited the Kingdom of Morocco last week where he led what the government information service termed “a high-level delegation” on a trip aimed at strengthening bilateral relations between both countries.
He was accompanied by the Minister of Public Infrastructure Ian Patches Liburd; Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr. Andrew Skerritt; St. Kitts and Nevis Ambassador to CARICOM and OECS Commissioner, His Excellency Sydney Osborne, and Ambassador Michael Powell, Special Envoy in the Office of the Prime Minister.
As Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. Brantley is at the forefront of St. Kitts and Nevis’ foreign policy and relations as the second highest diplomat of the country, yet government insiders say the Prime Minister systematically sidelines the diplomat and travels with certain ministers and others considered as being close to him.
In an interview with Freedom FM, Mr. Astaphan questioned the composition of the delegation to Morocco, the purpose of the visit, and the absence of Minister Brantley, whom he said found out about the trip a day or two prior the delegation’s departure.
“First of all what was the objective of the trip to Morocco; what was the rationale of putting that delegation together? You had the Minister of Public Works who seems to be the constant companion of the Prime Minister on all of his trips; how do you rationalize the presence on that trip of Mr. Liburd, Mr. Osbourne and Mr. Michael Powell- the public needs to know exactly what those two Ambassadors were doing on that trip.
“When did the Minister of Foreign Affairs find out about this trip? He had not been told that the Prime Minister was going to visit Nevis to see the firehouse at the Vance Amory Airport and one wonders whether that misunderstanding was one of the reasons why the Cabinet had a retreat to iron out some misunderstandings and perhaps at the retreat in when the Minister of Foreign Affairs found out about this trip, but that’s not a way for the Prime Minister to deal with trips like this to other countries and you have a Minister of Foreign Affairs and he’s a very proactive, charismatic, and effective negotiator and representative of the country in his capacity as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. So if it was a state visit you would expect that the Foreign Minister would accompany the Prime Minister.”
When asked about Prime Minister Harris’ alleged sidelining of the Foreign Affairs Minister Brantley, Mr. Astaphan opined:
“It would not be too difficult to come to that conclusion. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is the number two diplomat after the prime Minister for the country and I’m not promoting anybody or saying negative about anybody else, but Mr. Brantley is a very capable man and he makes his arguments very persuasively and charismatically and is a tremendous asset to the country certainly in terms its pursuit of its diplomatic agenda and the question has to be asked, why is he not a more frontal role to play in these things?
“Why is it the Prime Minister seems to be traveling with buddies and cronies and apparently at the expense of the tax payers as well?”
Despite members of the public and opposition parties insisting there is a clear rift between the coalition partners, Premier Brantley maintains that all is well between himself and Prime Minister Harris.