Trinidad Guardian:– The Foreign Affairs Ministry is investigating circumstances which led to this country’s representative at a recent meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) where T&T ‘s representative to decline to support Dominica’s bid to waive its OAS contributions.
Prime Minister Keith Rowley who’s asked for a report on the matter will receive one “shortly,” the Ministry also confirmed yesterday.
The Ministry claims T&T’s position offered by Ambassador Anthony Phillip-Spencer was misrepresented.
Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses, in an interview with Guardian Media, said: “Our position is not at variance with what was being sought by the country concerned. What was being sought by the country and agreed upon across the board, we are not at variance with that position.”
The developments were listed in a Ministry statement yesterday.
In the face of the public objection, the Government has sought to assure its support for Dominica is still strong—and pacify regional concerns—following reports that T&T had “blanked” hurricane-ravaged Dominica’s recent bid to get a waiver on its contribution to the OAS for the 2018-2019 period.
T&T’s position on the OAS matter had been noted—and criticised—in some quarters. At the recent OAS meeting T&T’s Ambassador to the OAS, Phillip Spencer, reportedly said despite the “goodwill” expressed by the other delegations, including those from Caricom, T&T wouldn’t support Dominica’s waiver bid.
Phillip-Spencer reportedly said T&T would instead consider supporting either the “deferral of payments of contributions by member states and where possible the implementation of a payment plan.”
Dominica, which was severely affected by two hurricanes last year, had urged OAS members to approve its waiver.
Yesterday, Opposition MP Rodney Charles, panned T&T’s decision, calling on Rowley to remove Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses whom he said has failed on a number of matters.
Apologising to Dominica, Charles noted T&T’s decision had been widely reported.
Another UNC MP, Suruj Rambachan, who once held the portfolio of foreign affairs minister, said “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its attempt to distance itself from the position taken by Trinidad and Tobago against the waiver of fees for Dominica at the OAS reflects in no small way the deterioration in the management of our Foreign Affairs and diplomatic relations.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs must produce the documentation communicated to the TT-OAS Representative on this particular matter since representatives of Trinidad and Tobago Missions abroad in general, take positions based upon communication from head office.”
“The Minister cannot wash his hands from this matter. If he is so convinced that an official acted on his own then he should proceed to fire that official.
“The Minister himself has not been a competent and efficient Minister in matters of Foreign Affairs leaving large gaps in policy coordination that would effectively guide our representatives abroad.
“The slap meted out to our Dominican neighbours is highly regrettable and have done more to affect our relations not only with Dominica but with our Caricom neighbours, given my understanding that Caricom had decided on a common position which was the waiver,” Rambachan said in a statement.
Soon after Charles spoke, the Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a press release.
It stated: “In an unqualified way, the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs regrets the misrepresentation of the position of T&T offered by a public official of T&T during a meeting of the OAS’ Permanent Council (held 23rd March) relative to a request from Dominica for a waiver of its financial contribution to that Organization for 2018 to 2019.”
“Currently, an investigation into the briefing arrangements of the public official and the circumstances involved in the discussion at the OAS is underway.”
“Shortly a report, as requested, would be made available to the Honourable Prime Minister.”
Reiterating unwavering support for Dominica, the Ministry said this was tangibly demonstrated in T&T’s recent aid and expressions of empathy to that country.
The statement added: “A suggestion by a public servant at an OAS meeting that Dominica’s dues not be collected at this time but be deferred to some future time in no way reflects any change in the demonstrated concern of T&T for the welfare of the people of Dominica.”
“T&T’s solidarity with the people of Dominica is without question.
The actions, co-operation (be it technical, financial or diplomatic) with Dominica and advocacy over time, most recently in the advent and aftermath of hurricanes, Erika (in 2015) and Maria (last year) attest to the strong and abiding relationship between Dominica and T&T,” it added.
“The position presented at the OAS isn’t aligned with the actions, policy or orientation of T&T towards Dominica.
“The unswerving commitment of T&T is that the fraternal bond between Caricom member states and peoples of the Caribbean continue to be further strengthened.”