National Security Minister Stuart Young says he will not resign amidst calls for him to do so as a result of the controversy surrounding the visit of Venezuela Vice President Delcy Rodriguez to Trinidad.
Speaking during the Ministry of Health’s virtual news conference yesterday, Young pointed to inaccurate media reporting as the driving force behind calls for his resignation.
Rodriguez, who is sanctioned by the US, Canada and the European Union, visited Trinidad on March 27. She arrived here on a PDVSA plane—which is also sanctioned by the US.
The US Embassy has since stated Rodriguez is subject to travel sanctions that are binding on all Rio Treaty parties, and T&T is a party to the treaty.
Young addressed the issue at a Senate sitting on May 13 and was quoted in the Express as saying he spoke with US Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago Joseph Mondello, and the issue of the breach of the Rio Treaty did not come up.
Mondello responded in a statement, disclosing he did in fact raise concerns with Young about Rodriguez’ visit and T&T’s obligation under the Rio Treaty.
With questions being raised as to the conflicting information coming from Young and Mondello, Young issued another statement, saying his comments in the Parliament were misconstrued because he never said the ambassador did not raise the Rio Treaty, but that the ambassador did not specifically speak to breaches of the treaty.
Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses has since weighed in on the issue, saying T&T recognises Nicolas Maduro and not Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s president and is not bound by the Rio Treaty and the travel restrictions imposed on Rodriquez.
No reason to resign
Calls have, however, come from various quarters for Young to resign, including in a Sunday Express editorial dated May 17.
Asked during the news conference yesterday whether he intended to resign, Young said he sees no reason why he should.
He said: “The answer is no. Quite frankly, I have not seen the reason for resignation. I’ve listened very carefully, I’ve noticed the quarters that it has come from. I’ve also noted two corrections in the newspapers, very small corrections, one in the Newsday and one in the Express, which is where a lot of the whole misconstruing came from that I was quoted as saying something which was then relied on by our US allies that is what we were told, and that turned out to be wholly false.
“And even after the Hansard was put into the public domain and sent to the media, it was still scoffed over and that repeat of a misquotation of me took place.”
Young said he will continue to act in the interest of the people of T&T. “I am here to serve the people of Trinidad and Tobago and I will continue to do so, staying true to my oath, without fear or favour, malice or ill will, and definitely to the best of my ability,” he said.
On May 14 the Express accurately quoted Minister Stuart Young as saying in the Senate: “In fact, last week the US government’s head and top diplomat in T&T, its Ambassador (Joseph Mondello), not any underling who may or may not be speaking to the media, had a conversation with me as a representative at the Cabinet level of the Government, and there were other conversations had, and there was no raising of the breach of any treaty.”
The Sunday Express editorial on May 17 called on Minister Young to resign.
On May 19, Ambassador Mondello issued the following statement:
“Normally I do not comment on private conversations with host government officials. Since the Government has spoken publicly about my May 6 conversation with Minister Young, though, I wish to affirm that I expressed concern to the minister in that conversation about the consistency of Delcy Rodriguez’s visit to Port of Spain with Trinidad and Tobago’s obligations as a party to the Rio Treaty.
“Article 20 of the Rio Treaty makes it unambiguously clear that all measures imposed by the Organ of Consultation—like the travel restrictions on Ms Rodriguez—are binding on all treaty parties, whether or not they voted in favour of such measures.”
The ambassador’s statement was immediately reported online by the Express. In this online story, Young is inaccurately quoted as having said the Rio Treaty was not raised. It was corrected as soon as Young released the Hansard report later that very day.
On May 21, Young issued a statement citing several instances of inaccurate reporting which the Express published.
The Express then published a correction of the online error in our print edition on May 23, although it had already been corrected online on May 19.
This is the text of the “small” correction referred to by Young yesterday published on Page 4 of the Express on May 23 where all corrections, with few exceptions as determined by legal counsel, are placed: “The Express online report last Tuesday cited by National Security Minister Stuart Young as ‘intentionally’ misquoting him on the Rio Treaty was corrected soon after, when the minister released the Hansard report. The error is regretted.”