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Link that’s Sir Lloyd

Gercine Carter

Link that’s Sir Lloyd

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Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford is settling down to the business of building cultural and economic ties between the People’s Republic of China and Barbados.
This country’s first resident Ambassador to China returns to that country tomorrow after coming home for the funeral of late Prime Minister David Thompson, the young Democratic Labour Party member whom Sandiford appointed to his first ministerial position.
In a candid, lengthy interview with the Weekend Nation at his St James home yesterday, Sir Lloyd shared glimpses of his new Beijing experience, sometimes reflecting on his political career and his influence in the life of Thompson.
Some people questioned the wisdom of Sir Lloyd’s appointment to China when it was announced,  even expressing doubt about his ability to do the job, given his age. Reference was made to the “slow boat to China”.
But yesterday the veteran politician dismissed all such sentiments as he described a China “that is different, not only one of the world’s most populous countries; an old civilisation that places great emphasis on its culture, its antiquities, its art” – a country that he is gradually getting to know as he performs his job.
To his critics he shot back yesterday: “There was a slow boat to China before me,” mentioning trips paid to that country by previous Barbadian leaders and the appointment of a non-resident Barbados Ambassador to China long before his appointment.
Special relationship
 “It is really remarkable and of great interest that Barbados should be engaging with China – a very small country engaging a very large country – and this in  itself is challenging” he said.
“Beijing is one of the world’s busiest diplomatic centres (with 165 diplomatic missions), most countries have embassies there and Barbados was tending to be among the last countries to establish there. Six other Caribbean countries already operate diplomatic missions in China,” Sir Lloyd pointed out.
He lists among the challenges of his task, the operation of the mission with a small staff of four, undertaking a heavy workload.
He himself has been busy, engaging in discussions with the Chinese goverment, meeting with the business sectors – agriculture, tourism industry – among other interests, in order to facilitate  the development of business and commercial ties between the two countries, while seeking to establish co-operative relationships “in order to get the co-operation in several areas going between these two countries”.
Asked  for his views on the prospects for success of his two-year appointment, Sir Lloyd  who took up office in China in January  says “a lot depends on how much we [Barbados] want to engage in that development and co-operation and what resources we are prepared to put into the effort”.
“China is open and ready to co-operate but there are things that we have to do in order to make all of that possible”.
“For instance we talked about tourism. There are constraints to that . . . . Being that it is far away, people don’t know about Barbados – we assume that they know about Barbados, they don’t; but they are among the greatest travellers of the world.
“But to get them to come to Barbados or the Caribbean means that we have to do certain things. We have to remember that it is a highly bureaucratic country that pays a lot of attention to the rules, so you have to do things in order to comply with their way of doing things”.
Sir Lloyd cited an agreement for tourism and travel signed between China and Barbados since 2000, which he said “remained a dead letter”.
That co-operation agreement is for the facilitation of travel between the two countries for citizens of either country. And he says in his new diplomatic position, using his own initiative he has taken out that agreement and “dusted it off to get things happening”.
Sir Lloyd is also anxious to have a visa section set up in the  embassy, noting: “Our mission does not issue visas and that is a challenge . . . we have not been able yet to get a system in place where we do that.”
He sees this as “an obstacle in the co-operation”, since Chinese businessmen are also asking when will the facility be available.
His days are full, and he is getting exposure to the wider area of diplomatic operations during monthly joint meetings between the Caucus of Caribbean Ambassasdors and the government of China, and in sessions with the Group of Caribbean and Latin American Countries.
The former Prime Minister yesterday recalled how he gave late Prime Minister David Thompson his first opportunity to “learn about ministerial Government, Cabinet and governance and to get his feet wet in . . . governance” when he gave him his first ministerial appointment.
“Soon after that I gave him responsibility for part of the Structural Adjustment Programme which related particularly to resolving the issues in agriculture, and in my assessment he did a particularly good job in that regard.
“He was a performing minister,” Sir Lloyd said of Thompson.
This former Prime Minister says he “suffered much” while performing that role and still talks about the controversies which dogged his term.
Yesterday he again sought to clear the air on the infamous “like it or lump it” line attributed to him during the dark period of his political career, emphatically denying that he had ever said those words to the people of Barbados.
Instead he maintained they had been directed at a Member of Parliament in response to a comment made by that member.
But he is relieved all this is behind him.
With the passing of Prime Minister Thompson, and the elevation of Freundel Stuart to Prime Minister, Sir Lloyd projects “a good future” for the Democratic Labour Party “if they make use  of the opportunities and remember that unity is strength, and co-operation is the key word”.
Above all he reminds his party: “There can only be one leader at a time.”