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No one to handle President’s protocol
There is no one at present with the designated responsibility of handling protocol issues for the President of T&T. This after officials at both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the President’s establishment, all denied that they had any responsibility for treating with protocol matters for the President on occasions such as the recent visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
During that visit the country watched as Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was seen walking alongside the visiting President, while President Anthony Carmona was left to tag along behind. Many people from all walks of life expressed concern about an apparent “diplomatic blunder.”
When the Sunday Guardian asked officials at the ministry who was responsible for looking after President Carmona on occasions as the recent State visit, the official said “there are people at the President’s House to do that, they handle protocol themselves.” When the question was posed to officials at the President’s establishment, the response was that “all of the State’s protocol arrangements repose with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the chief protocol officer.”
‘Protocol is serious business’
Asked if the President does not have his own protocol officer, the official said that there is not now, nor has there been, “at least within the last five years,” any position of “protocol officer, or chief of protocol” within the presidency, “that position does not exist.” One source said that Lenore Dorset, whose contract had recently ended and who had been part of the presidency as far back as President ANR Robinson, would often fill that role, but it was not her duty.
“Mrs Dorset’s position was executive assistant to the President, but because she is so well versed in the science of protocol, so much so that the United Nations has used her to train their officers in protocol because she had that expertise. She, in her time, looked after such matters but there really is no such position within the presidency,” the source said.
As for the Prime Minister putting “her own personal touch” on protocol, as announced by Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Margaret Parillon, protocol cannot be “spun”, one protocol and etiquette expert said.
“Protocol is serious business and must always be observed, there are norms that must be followed. We boast of following the Westminster system, within that system there is the Prime Minister but then there is also the Royal family. Our Prime Minister must realise that while she is first among equals, the President, in ceremony, is like the Royal family.” The expert brought it down to the Order of Precedence that is written and ought to be followed in diplomatic situations.
“There is an Order of Precedence, and for Trinidad and well as much of the Caribbean you will find the order of the first three officials at the top often unchanged —the President or Governor General, the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice—that order tends to remain.”
While the Sunday Guardian was told that the local list is up for revision the current order places the President ahead of the Prime Minister. One former career diplomat said the statement made by the PS was just unfortunate and what occurred should never have happened.
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