Following the announcement by Governor General Dame Sandra Mason that she intended to appoint this island’s Deputy High Commissioner to London Althea Wiggins as a senator, details have emerged of an ugly incident two years ago in which Wiggins was accused of cursing her boss in the full view of other members of staff at the London-based High Commission.
Barbados TODAY has obtained a copy of the incident report, as well as the detailed letter which was dispatched by High Commissioner Guy Hewitt to then Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Maxine McClean.
In the report, Wiggins was accused of behaving “in an unprofessional, disrespectful and undignified manner” in the presence of junior staff following a staff meeting on February 8, 2016.
The incident reportedly occurred in the reception area of the Barbados High Commission “in the presence of a number of junior staff”.
“You used abusive language which is alleged to have been directed towards me,” Hewitt said a February 12 report that was addressed to his deputy.
“Please note that given the nature and seriousness of this matter, I felt it necessary to notify the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and request that she leads on the follow up.
“You are required within seven days to provide to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade a written report of the alleged incident,” Hewitt also instructed.
Five days later a follow up letter was sent by the High Commissioner to his deputy in which he acknowledged her response dated February 17, 2016.
However, he sought to remind Wiggins of “the instruction that you submit by tomorrow a report on the matter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade”.
Hewitt subsequently wrote to the Prime Minister outlining his position on the matter.
“Aware of our role as diplomats and senior representatives of the Government of Barbados abroad, it gives me no pleasure to have to bring such a matter to you. All relevant correspondence is attached but please allow me to put this matter into context.
“Aware of the communications challenges that obtained in this Mission in the past, I have given priority to building Team Barbados UK. My efforts included initiating staff meetings for all staff – Mission, BTMI [Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc], Ships Registry and International Business – and also periodic management meetings among the senior staff. Occasions in summer and for Christmas for staff to come together were also arranged by me at the High Commissioner’s residence.
“I have sought to work closely with Ms Wiggins as I have sought to do with Ms [Cheryl] Carter, Ms [Francoise] Hendy and Capt [P J] Green as senior managers. However, I must admit that the Deputy High Commissioner has to date not seemed to settle into her role and complaints have been received from the diaspora including the Chairperson of the National Council of Barbadian Associations and the President of the DLP UK Branch,” Hewitt complained in his letter, adding that “I have had to advise the Deputy of the need to avoid getting drawn into disputes with other staff, especially junior members, and also formally caution some staff members against being drawn into matters with the deputy which could affect them and cause discord in the mission.
“In the 18 months that I have been in [the] post, I have repeatedly discussed with the deputy the need for her to develop and document a work programme, and to submit ongoing reports of her activities to me and to Minister McClean. To date, neither has been forthcoming.
“I need to indicate that I was required to intervene on the arrangements for the Town Hall Meeting during your visit after Permanent Secretary Welch advised that the Deputy, without reference either to Minister McClean or myself, sought to cancel the meeting due to apparent logistical challenges. I also had to advise the deputy that it would not be appropriate for her to plan to be away from the Mission during your visit.”
Hewitt also noted that Wiggins had categorically denied using abusive language on February 8, 2016. However, he said her position did not correlate with three written staff statements received on the matter. “Further, she also makes unsubstantiated allegations of ‘verbal abuse’ that she claims to have suffered by me and that I am apparently part of a ‘conspiracy’ against her. I refute these assertions,” Hewitt said in his letter to the Prime Minister in which he called for Stuart’s direct intervention in order for the matter to be satisfactorily resolved.
However, it was not immediately clear how Stuart reacted to the matter, even though both Wiggins and Hewitt have retained their positions with the London office.
When contacted today, McClean said she was not prepared to get into any such discussion.
And while Wiggins could not be reached for comment, Hewitt said he was “unable to verify or deny that such outrageous and unprofessional conduct took place at the Mission in London”.
He however advised that “if it had he would have had to refer the matter to the minister [McClean] for her urgent attention”.
Wiggins, for whom a constitutional amendment was made last week to facilitate her appointment in the Senate given that she has not been resident in Barbados over the past 12 months, is due to take up her position in the Upper Chamber by July.