Unless you have been travelling in certain political circles over the past few years, you may not be very familiar with the name Charles Jong.
However, his has become almost a household name in neighbouring St Kitts and Dominica where he has been stationed for at least the past decade and a half, working directly out of the office of the prime minister.
Mr Jong, a communications consultant of 14 years experience, boasts on his Linkedin page: “Since 2004 I have worked on 16 general election campaigns in the English-speaking Caribbean, including in St Kitts, Nevis, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Antigua and Barbuda and St Lucia.
“I have had to interact with several sitting prime ministers and members of parliament on political strategy and political marketing strategy. I have also been a member of government delegations to Cuba, Venezuela, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Taiwan, Puerto Rico, and the United Nations.”
His aim is “to revolutionize [the] internal processes of my clients – making real what may presently be viewed as unheard of or impossible,” he explains.
And as far as his specialties go, they include, but are not limited to “strategic planning, creation and maintenance of database management systems, media coordination and relations, high-tech communications, web design, database integration with web portals, obtaining industry intelligence, graphic design, using technology effectively, scripting, authoring”.
As it relates to Barbados, he has been the man behind both the Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) and its leader Mia Mottley’s Facebook pages over the past four years and ten months having been employed as the party’s marketing and communications consultant from October 2013 to the present.
In addition to maintaining the BLP’s website, Mr Jong has authored content for the BLP, conducted Facebook advertising campaigns, provided live Internet video streaming via YouTube, built the party’s mailing list, assisted with database management of 74,000+ records and mail merging, recorded high definition video, provided video and audio editing services, online publishing, and assisted with event layout and setup.
In short, he has played a seminal role for the party in the lead up to the May 24 poll, which it must be said was the most technologically savvy campaign ever mounted in the history of Barbados.
With that said, how does this translate into him being named Director of Communications for the Barbados Government?
Are we now to assume that any and everyone who worked in the last campaign, whether they have locus standi or not, are to be absorbed into our already bloated Government?
Furthermore, is Mr Jong still on the Dominica Government’s payroll? Or is his position sort of like Professor Avinash Persaud’s where he is allowed to continue to work for prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit’s ruling DLP in Dominica, while also drawing a separate and full-time salary here in Barbados?
We recall back in 2014, that similar questions were asked of Mr Skerrit about the nature of Mr Jong’s employment.
Back then it was reported by Dominica News Online that the cash-strapped government in Roseau was dishing out close to $100,000 (EC$8,000 per month) for a one-year contract for Mr Jong who was said to be rendering “public relations and information management services”.
At the time the opposition United Workers Party had called, to no avail, for the immediate cancellation of the contract which it said was “highly irregular” since “we are not aware that there is any shortage of public servants assigned to provide the services outlined in the agreement; we are not aware that there was any public advertisement inviting tenders for the provision of these services; Mr Charles Jong has been conspicuously engaged in blatant political campaign work for the DLP; has openly violated the legal arrangements under which the proceedings of parliament are broadcast live to the people of Dominica and under the authority of this agreement, threatened to be the worst nightmare of the leader of the opposition in the Roseau parliament.
“Clearly Mr Jong is serving the Dominica Labour Party and not the government of the state,” opposition leader Hector John had claimed at the time while threatening legal action.
And while we have nothing personal against Mr Jong and are not prepared to go as far as to say he is anyone’s worse nightmare, we believe that there are some glaring questions that have to be asked and answered if we the people are paying for Mr Jong’s appointment to Government.
For one, why is it even necessary to bring him in, given the level of communication talent that is already available domestically and within the present Government?
Will he still be working for the BLP while taking home a Government of Barbados salary? More importantly, where is the money coming from to afford this new position, which, based on the Prime Minister’s earlier pronouncements, does not preclude the need for a press secretary?
To this day we have not been given an explanation of anything as it relates to costs to the Treasury of the new positions that have been created in our Government. These include the ambassadorial posts announced for former Deputy Prime Minister Dame Billie Miller and Dr Clyde Mascoll with respect to Cabinet and the elevation of Pat Parris, the former executive assistant to the Leader of the Opposition, as director of public affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister.
There has also been talk of several “czar” committees in one ministry or another without a shred of official information on the costs to the state.
In the midst of the present austerity, our primary concern is that while the size of our Government is growing larger and larger by the day, the public coffers are growing less and less, so too the pay packs of those of us who are made to carry the burden of Government’s unnecessary political largesse.