THE Opposition’s open courting of sanctions on this country by the United States marks an all-time low in the political history of independent Trinidad and Tobago. Whether one supports the ruling party or not, the letter sent to the US ambassador by United National Congress MP Dr Roodal Moonilal and echoed in a social media post by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, should offend every citizen for having crossed an unforgivable line. Our differences with each other could never be so extreme that we are willing to throw our country and its people under the armada of a superpower.
Dr Moonilal’s shameful act is made even more desperate by the fact that it is based on a case so flimsy that he was forced to couch his letter to Ambassador Joseph Mondello with such caveats as “if factual in nature” and “if true”. In a country replete with daily acts of irresponsibility by public figures, it is hard to find one more irresponsible and ill-advised as this.
To underscore the fact that the letter was no errant act by her MP for Oropouche East, UNC political leader and leader of the parliamentary Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar delivered the coup de grace on our collective shame. In a wild display of fear-mongering, she conjured up threats to US visa-holders and the T&T diaspora in the US and the collapse of T&T-US trade along with the national economy. All because of what she herself described in the post as a “possibly illegitimate fuel shipment”.
For sure, these are geo-politically sensitive times, not only for Trinidad and Tobago but for the entire Caribbean as the United States ratchets up its bid to oust Nicolas Maduro as President of Venezuela and have him replaced with its preferred candidate, Juan Guaidó. More than ever, T&T needs to stand firmly on its sovereignty and its position of non-alignment and non-interference. We confess our concern about the government’s ability to navigate the tricky diplomacy required in this situation. Indeed, this newspaper has been open in stating its reservations about the quality of support provided to the government by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Minister Dennis Moses. A side issue of relevance here was the apparent ease with which National Security Minister Stuart Young leap-frogged over Minister Moses in communicating directly with ministers in the Barbados government in matters involving the 33 stranded Trinidadians. The point was very diplomatically made when the Barbados government appropriately lodged its concern via its Foreign Minister.
The visit of Venezuela’s vice president Delcy Rodriguez just ahead of the controversial sale of 150,000 barrels of gasoline by State-owned Paria Fuel Trading had fuelled speculation about possible T&T complicity to subvert US trade sanctions against Venezuela. The Government maintains that her visit was related to COVID-19. However, the public interest requires more from the Government. It must disclose the meeting’s agenda with details, and address matters relevant to the Paria sale.
The UNC’s misguided attempt to invite US interference in T&T’s affairs by invoking the spectre of sanctions carries the risk of deepening socio-political divisions and weakening the national resolve to defend our sovereignty.
Whatever our differences, that should never be countenanced.