PORT Of SPAIN, Trinidad – The Trinidad and Tobago government Thursday sought to distance itself from a position taken by its ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS) Anthony Phillip Spencer during a hemispheric meeting last week against a financial waiver for hurricane ravaged Dominica.
Instead of supporting the waiver on Dominica’s assessed quota contribution to the OAS for the 2018-2019 period, Spencer said despite the “goodwill” expressed by the other delegations, including those from the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), his country preferred to look at either the “deferral of payments of contributions by member states [or] where possible, the implementation of a payment plan”.
The Trinidadian envoy also told the meeting that while Trinidad and Tobago would like to reiterate solidarity with all member states that had been impacted by hurricanes Irma, Maria and the other devastating storms in the last hurricane season, it was among the early responders to Dominica’s pleas for assistance.
“Trinidad and Tobago has had itself to explicitly express a position that it is unable to facilitate any increase in its own assessed contributions. Given the explanations provided by the chair of the cap, this delegation must advise distinguished colleagues that at other multilateral fora in the hemisphere, Trinidad and Tobago has had to explicitly state its concerns for the overall impact of adjustments in the established arrangements for payment of quota contributions.
“In doing so Trinidad and Tobago has offered the proposal, the opportunity, the option for consideration of the deferral of payments of contributions by member states and, where possible, the implementation of a payment plan, subject to review of course, given that you never know how long an adjustment and capacity to return to the normal arrangements,” Spencer added.
However, in a statement today, the Trinidad and Tobago ministry of foreign and CARICOM affairs said it “wishes to reiterate its unwavering support for Dominica, tangibly demonstrated in Trinidad and Tobago’s recent aid and expressions of empathy to that country”.
It also said that “an investigation was under way “into the briefing arrangements of the public official and the circumstances involved in the discussion”.
Prime minister Dr Keith Rowley has requested a report on the matter.
“Trinidad and Tobago’s solidarity with the people of Dominica is without question. The actions, cooperation – be it technical, financial or diplomatic – with Dominica and advocacy overtime, most recently in the advent and aftermath of hurricanes Erika and Maria attest to the strong and abiding relationship between Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago,” the statement stressed.
The ministry emphasized that the position presented at the OAS was “not aligned with the actions, policy or orientation of Trinidad and Tobago towards Dominica.
“The unswerving commitment of Trinidad and Tobago is that the fraternal bond between CARICOM member states and peoples of the Caribbean continue to be further strengthened,” it added.
Dominica is recovering from the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria on September 18 last year and the island had gone to the OAS last week urging member countries to approve the waiver.
The island’s alternate representative to the hemispheric body, Judith-Anne Rolle, told the special meeting of the Permanent Council on March 23 that the post-disaster assessment situation in Roseau, undertaken in collaboration with a number of regional and international organizations, including the World Bank and the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank, had painted a very dismal picture of the island.
“The post disaster needs assessment also concluded that Hurricane Maria resulted in total damage of US$931 million and losses of US$382 million to the productive, social, infrastructure and cross cutting sectors, amounting to 226 per cent of the GDP [gross domestic product] for 2016, ” she told the meeting.
Rolle also reported that the cost of reconstruction had been estimated at more than US$1.3 billion, while recalling the words of prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit that “we have lost all that money can buy . . . and we would need help of all kinds”.
The diplomat pointed out that every sector of the Dominican economy had been impacted by the category five hurricane, with the greatest loss suffered within the agricultural sector at 33 per cent, followed by the tourism sector at 19 per cent.
She said that in assessing its international obligations, Dominica had identified as “a mitigating measure” a waiver of its annual contributions over a specified period to address its commitment to international organizations.
“It is in this regard that we have forwarded a request for a full waiver of quota contributions assessed the Commonwealth of Dominica for the years 2018 and 2019 for consideration and approval of this council.
“Let me, on behalf of the government of the Commonwealth of Dominica, record our profound appreciation to all member states for their continued and invaluable support to the Commonwealth of Dominica as we advance recovery efforts in our homeland,” she told the OAS meeting before the controversial position was taken by Spencer.
In response, a seemingly baffled Rolle, in thanking member states for their support of the request which was approved, said she was unsure of the concern by Port of Spain and needed clarity.