Barbados’ main spokesman on foreign affairs and foreign trade matters is deafeningly silent on important matters affecting the country.
That was the view of Opposition Barbados Labour Party lead spokesman in the Upper House of Parliament, Senator Kerrie Symmonds, today as he severely criticised Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean for what he deemed her failure to stand up for Barbados and let the country know about it.
The former Minister of State in the same ministry said McClean’s failure to speak about the challenge the island’s rum industry was facing from the US, and the implementation status of the Economic Partnership Agreement were glaring.
He was leading the BLP’s response to the minister’s introductory speech on the Value Added Tax (Barbados Network Programme) (Validation) Bill, 2012.
Symmonds said instead of rejoicing about the fact that three leading members of US President Barack Obama’s Cabinet had visited Barbados in the last four years, McClean should update the country on the fact that the island’s rum industry was being “savaged” by American policies.
“When you read what is coming out of Bahamas you see that the government of the Bahamas has expressed deep concern, when you read what is coming out of Jamaica you see the government of Jamaica has expressed concern, so too with Trinidad and Tobago, so too with Guyana…,” he noted.
“I cannot recall, and I would be more than happy if I could be enlightened, … hearing the foreign trade minister of Barbados address the nation on this matter. I cannot recall hearing the Prime Minister of the land address the nation on this matter, but what I can say is that we have a situation in which the millions of people in the Diaspora that we heard about … were not agitated to raise their voices on this matter that touches the bread and butter and the financial survival of a major industry in Barbados, … across the region,” he said.
In response McClean said: “The inference given is that we in Barbados have been doing nothing. I can tell you that on behalf of CARICOM I would have written one of the first letters and this is a matter which is engaging us even at this time at the level even of approaching the WTO.
“So the suggestion going abroad is that we seem to be doing nothing, Bahamas is doing something, Trinidad is doing something, and I would want to dispel that.”
In the case of the EPA, Symmonds also said McClean had not shown leadership in updating Barbadians on the state of progress with the initiative.
McClean responded: “In his efforts to mislead, he is forgetting that the implementation unit has been using the media to invite the business community to a cross section of workshops and other organised events to educate them and to direct them and support them in accessing. (SC)