TRINIDAD-POLITICS-PM Rowley “shocked and embarrassed” by OAS “mishap”

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A “shocked and embarrassed” Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley Thursday sought to reaffirm Trinidad and Tobago’s commitment to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and more specifically Dominica, following the “mishap” that occurred when Port of Spain voted against a waiver on its assessed quota contribution to the Organisation of American States (OAS) for the 2018-19 period.
Rowley, who has received a report on the circumstances that led to his administration not supporting the request, told reporters at the weekly post Cabinet news conference that he was “shocked and embarrassed as any other citizen” following the vote on March 23.
“So when I heard Trinidad and Tobago had taken a position in opposition to the request of Dominica it came as a shock to me and I immediately inquired to find how could this be and who was directing that policy because clearly that policy required an input from the political directorate,” he said, after he had outlined the many occasions his administration since coming to office in 2015 had made it clear it was in full support of CARICOM.
He said he had taken the position that his administration would focus on CARICOM affairs and had appointed a “very experienced” person in Dennis Moses to head the Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, and that while he was not “flamboyant” he had has significant experience working in organisations such as the OAS.“
He said following the situation at the OAS last month, he had asked for a comprehensive report ‘from all levels….
“I have got these original documents and…it makes disturbing reading,” Rowley said, adding “not for the first time, I have had to be concerned about certain actions taken by persons who may not have followed procedures or worse usurp the authority where that authority lies..”.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Ambassador to the OAS, Anthony Phillip Spencer, had on March 23 said during a special meeting of the OAS Permanent Council that despite the “goodwill” expressed by the other delegations, including those from CARICOM, his country would not support the waiver, adding that Port of Spain would instead consider supporting either the “deferral of payments of contributions by member states and where possible the implementation of a payment plan”.
Dominica is recovering from the destruction caused by the passage of Hurricane Maria on September 18 last year and the island had gone to the OAS meeting here last week urging member countries to approve of the waiver estimated at US$20,000 annually.
Dominica’s alternate representative to the hemispheric body, Judith-Anne Rolle, told the meeting that the post disaster assessment situation in Dominica undertaken in collaboration with a number of regional and international organisations, including the World Bank and the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) had painted a very dismal picture of the island.
“The post disaster needs assessment also concluded that Hurricane Maria resulted in total damages 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) of 2016, ” she told the meeting.
Earlier this week, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the relationship between the two CARICOM countries “is still solid” and that “The Trinidad and Tobago government and indeed the whole of TT have been very supportive of our efforts.
“I do not think that the PM would have been aware of the vote at the OAS prior. This is one of the usual miscommunication occurrences which happens to all of us from time to time,” he said.
Rowley told reporters that in the report which he had received, it contained information from a senior public servant that officials made certain decisions based on what may no longer be valid.
“His (the senior public servant’s) position was that Trinidad and Tobago’s position should remain consistent with those expressed at several meetings of CARICOM and the ACS (Association of Caribbean States) with respect to the grant of waivers….this is the source of the problem.
“Public officials are now deciding that notwithstanding what the political directorate may come to, the advice to, and the position of Trinidad and Tobago, is that we maintain some consistency with some prior position, somewhere else on some other matter and, in maintaining that consistency we must say “no” to the Dominica waiver,” Rowley said.
However, the Trinidad and Tobago leader aid he has since taken the decision to send all the documents as well as the report for “expert review” by a former experienced diplomat “to give me an appropriate analysis of what we dealing with here because it is my intention to let the facts dictate what actions are taken as Prime Minister on this matter”.

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