Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell says recent harsh criticisms of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders, made by outspoken Minister of Industry Donville Inniss, simply do not apply to him.
“All I can say is that I just came in last year. So I have not been able to assess that [the leader’s performance] properly and it is difficult to assess my own performance in a year,” he told Barbados TODAY this morning before joining his regional colleagues in a retreat at the 35th CARICOM Heads of Government Conference.
Mitchell, who returned to office in February last year, however suggested that the Minister’s comments may be based on what Inniss had seen, but the Prime Minister said he could not comment any further on the observations.
“I think people are making comments based on what they have seen and I can’t comment on their observation. Maybe in the next year or so I would be able to give you a better response,” said Mitchell, when pressed to say whether he believed Inniss’ remarks could apply to other regional leaders.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY last weekend, ahead of the CARICOM summit which began on Tuesday, Inniss accused this region’s prime ministers of poor leadership.
“The region deserves far better than what we are currently getting,” he said at the time, although not identifying any prime minister in particular.
Although not wanting to be dragged into any controversy with the Barbados minister, two other Eastern Caribbean leaders, who did not want to be identified, told Barbados TODAY that Inniss’ remarks were “unfortunate” and “regrettable”.
One pointed out however that Inniss was also a leader in the region as a senior government minister and questioned whether he was counting himself in that crop of “poor” regional leaders.
The Barbadian minister was particularly upset that there had been no Caribbean response to the United States government giving rum producers in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands around US$500 million in subsidies, putting Barbados’ rum industry at a major disadvantage.
He condemned the regional bloc for not giving support to Barbados which stands to lose about $60 million annually and hundreds of jobs as a result.
“I remember very well when St Lucia and the OECS had the bananas issue, which is not dissimilar to this one, where a US entity – Chiquita – was out there using their power and might fighting to get great support and subsidies from the US Government and literally squeeze banana-producing, small developing states out of the market. Barbados didn’t produce bananas but we supported the cause because we saw the bigger issue,” Inniss said.
“Today, it is Barbados’ turn in terms of rum and I am so embarrassed as a minister, as a politician, and as a citizen of this region to look behind me and find that there’s no one from the CARICOM region backing us. I, as a politician in this region, am totally embarrassed about the lack of interest on the part of region. I am not at all happy with what passes as prime ministers in this region and leaders at all.”
But in response one of the leaders said the rum issue was not one that concerned Barbados alone.
He said other Caribbean countries were also affected, adding that the matter would be addressed at the regional level.