Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley owes the people of Trinidad and Tobago, the people of Dominica and the people of the entire Caricom region a full and unqualified apology for this country’s shameful refusal to support the request of hurricane-stricken Dominica for a fee waiver at the Organisation of American States (OAS) last Friday.
What could have possessed this country to stand against a sister Caricom country at the hemispheric forum is simply unfathomable. Every country, including those that are not members of Caricom, supported Dominica’s request for a special waiver of its OAS fee, reportedly in the range of US$15,000 to US$20,000. When it came to T&T’s turn to state its position, a visibly uncomfortable OAS representative, Anthony Phillips-Spencer, mumbled the position that Dominica should instead defer the payment with the submission of a payment plan.
So flabbergasted was Dominica’s Interim Representative, Judith Ann Rolle, that she could hardly find the words to respond and settled for seeking clarification.
A more embarrassing howler in the world of diplomacy cannot be imagined. The fact that T&T would not back a sister Caricom nation in seeking financial relief on humanitarian grounds at a hemispheric forum is illogical in the extreme. Still it is hardly surprising given this country’s cowardly and equally illogical abstention at last December’s United Nations’ vote condemning the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
These high profile diplomatic blunders support the view that T&T’s foreign policy is in tatters. The country has lost its foreign policy moorings and no longer operates on the basis of any consistent principle of international relations.
This newspaper will not feign surprise. Early in his tenure, it was evident that the Prime Minister’s choice for the Foreign Affairs Ministry was out of his league and the wrong fit for the job. If he has made any mark at all, it is as a laughing stock in the Parliament where he is regularly goaded by the Opposition who are royally entertained by his manner of speech.
Whatever his international relations experience on paper, Dennis Moses has failed to distinguish himself at the level of high policy.
In all of this, the question to be asked is where is the Prime Minister? As a Cabinet member, Mr Moses is acting on behalf of the Government and we must therefore assume that the positions carried by our representatives at the UN and the OAS were both in line with government policy. If Mr Moses is acting contrary to government policy, the easy solution would be to fire him. If he is not, then Trinidad and Tobago has a much bigger problem of a government that has either lost its way in the world of international affairs or gone rogue on past policy.
In characteristic style, Dr Rowley may think he can ignore these concerns and plough on with protecting his failed cabinet appointee, but that will do nothing to remove the stains that now tarnish this country’s reputation the world over.
It is a shame that will be very hard to live down. Dominica, we are sorry.