Democratic Labour Party (DLP) President Verla DePeiza has declared her firm opposition to any effort to divide the CARICOM community.
But she is concerned that Prime Minister Mia Mottley may be fighting a losing battle to unite member states whose leaders appear determined to “walk their own path” on an issue of regional importance.
She made the comments in an interview with Barbados TODAY as select CARICOM leaders concluded talks with the United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, on Wednesday while others led by PM Mottley chose to abstain.
“I am wondering if Ms Mottley is fighting a losing battle, because if some of the CARICOM territories are okay with walking their own course as opposed to following a scripted path or a pre-agreed path, then what is she protecting?” DePeiza asked.
“You can only quarrel and say you are trying to divide us if all are making that same argument. But if some are stepping out on their own, we must acknowledge that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”
In light of the ongoing tension, the DLP president suggested that those in favour of strengthening the regional grouping would need to band together if they want to maintain a position of strength.
“As a leader of CARICOM, she is correct that moves like this do divide us. If some were invited and others were not, whether Barbados is on the list of countries invited or not, it does divide CARICOM, no matter what the issue is,” she told Barbados TODAY.
She however noted: “The flip side of the coin is that CARICOM has not to my knowledge expounded a comprehensive, united foreign policy. That having been said, on a general scale, the individual countries are still free to make their own way. If, as is suspected, the agenda items are issues on which CARICOM has a settled position, then that does raise the sceptre of divide and rule.”
During a recent gala, PM Mottley criticised a decision by some Caribbean countries to hold talks with Trump-administration officials without engaging the 15-member CARICOM grouping on the issues.
At the last summit in St. Lucia last July, CARICOM leaders reiterated their position of non-interference and non-intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela as the Trump-administration threatened military invasion.
“The US has their own agenda to pursue. They don’t make their policies with us in the back of their minds. They make their policies and we are either saying yes or no to it, but they make their policies,” DePeiza acknowledged.
“If, as we suspect, the agenda item is Venezuela, then we know what [the US] position is on Venezuela and if the Organisation of American States is on the agenda, then again we know for whom they tout their support.
“Their agenda is not ours sometimes and sometimes it is ours. Nobody is consistently your enemy or consistently your friend because I do adhere to the principles that we must be free to go our own ways,” DePeiza declared.
The DLP president suggested there was some uncertainty as to whether Barbados was actually was invited to this week’s meeting because “you can’t exactly decline an invitation that never came”.
Nevertheless, the political leader suggested in everything, the Prime Minister should be attempting to fight common ground as she navigates the murky waters of regional integration and international relations while maintaining the allegiance of those countries which remain on the side of CARICOM. [email protected]