Trinidad and Tobago is to have a physical diplomatic presence in Barbados, as the Keith Rowley administration moves to address “winds of disturbances” within the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Speaking at his weekly post-Cabinet news conference today, Rowley did not go into details on the move, but he told reporters that his ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) intends to establish a High Commission here, which will also service countries of the nine member Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
“We maintain our mission in Jamaica . . . and that mission will service the surrounding areas [like] Cuba, Haiti and so on. And this could not have come at a more appropriate time, because as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago I hear the winds of disturbances in CARICOM, and Trinidad and Tobago is resolute with respect to our commitment to CARICOM,” the prime minister said.
Rowley, whose PNM came to power on September 7 last year, also said the diplomatic mission in Barbados “is but one of the expressions of our resolve to do what we can, and whatever we must, to ensure that CARICOM remains in our focus”.
Bridgetown and Port of Spain had established diplomatic relations back on November 30, 1966 when Barbados gained its political independence from Britain. Since then, the two countries have maintained non-resident representation in each other’s territory.
Today, no mention was made of recent mutterings by Barbados that Trinidad owes it “a sizable amount” in navigation fees or
even the long running and still not settled fishing and oil disputes between the two CARICOM neighbours.
However, Rowley zeroed in on the “difficulties” T&T has been experiencing with Jamaica, while announcing that he would be paying a three-day visit to Kingston from July 17.
“Those arrangements are now almost complete . . . . and during that period I will make full use of my time in Jamaica in renewing our bonds and our relationships and addressing, wherever the opportunity arises, the developments of the regime of CARICOM, because that now seems to be an issue which was not in front of us six months ago – the question of CARICOM’s presence and its relationships being reviewed on a unilateral basis.”
His comments come on the heels of the recent announcement by his Jamaican counterpart Andrew Holness of a CARICOM Review Commission to review the regional arrangement, taking into account the Dominican Republic and Cuba, as well as the impact of globalization.
The Bruce Golding led Commission, which is due to formally get down to work on July 5, will also assess the value of Jamaica’s membership within CARICOM, its influence in critical international fora and assess the benefits derived through functional cooperation within the CARICOM framework.
“Our foreign policy must support our economic and development policy,” Holness said then, while saying his Government had no intention of leaving CARICOM.
In response, Rowley said his administration was not entirely taken by surprise by Jamaica’s move.
However, as CARICOM leaders prepare to meet in Guyana next Monday for their annual summit, Rowley assured: “We still believe there is value . . . in the CARICOM and we maintain that position and we will do everything to ensure that position prevail”.
The Trinidad and Tobago leader also announced that his government had taken a decision to close its mission in Uganda as it concentrates on closer relationship with countries in the Middle East and the United Arab Emirates.
“So you will see us making that shift from East Africa to the Middle East,” Rowley told reporters.