Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is advising citizens of T&T and those in the wider region to ignore the insincerity of Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
He made the comment on social media on Monday, after Persad-Bissessar questioned the effectiveness of Caricom following the recently held Head of Government meeting.
In a strongly worded release, PM Rowley said: “So the Trinidad and Tobago Opposition Leader is questioning the effectiveness of Caricom. This after the regional entity has just demonstrated its unity and diplomatic clout during a massive celebratory week of activity which attracted the presence and attention of our major trading partners and other important decision-makers upon whom we depend for much of our many successes.”
He said, “No one who knows the history of this Opposition Leader should be surprised that she cannot do anything to join the celebrations but only seeks to cast doubt and dampen, because all she has done throughout her career is to take actions that serve only to undermine the regional body and diminish the said effectiveness that she now pretends to be concerned about.”
Rowley stated: “One of the first things she did was to trigger a trade war and boycott of Trinidad and Tobago’s goods into Jamaica by insulting their government and businesses with foolish and dismissive statements not the least of which was to tell them that Trinidad and Tobago is not their piggy bank.”
“It took this new Prime Minister leading a delegation to Jamaica to smooth the ruffled feathers and restore a good working relationship with Jamaica. She even told Grenada and St Lucia, who were reeling from hurricane damage, that they could get some help from us on the singular condition that they in return must undertake to buy certain goods from us. Needless to say, this approach was met with rebuff and derision from many quarters.”
Rowley said, “This Opposition Leader and her UNC party had the total support of all in the T&T Parliament, to accept the Caribbean Court of Justice as our final Court of Appeal and have it replace the Privy Council and be headquartered in Port of Spain. As soon as they lost an election they ditched the policy and principles involved and undermined the CCJ, up to this day, on the grounds that the court did not have Indian judges. She was the architect of that explanation.
Embarrassingly for the people of Trinidad and Tobago, the rest of Caricom kept their word to us, we kept the Headquarters but dismissed the Court in favour of “squatting on the steps of the Privy Council”.
The PM said it is to be noted that the establishment of a Single Market and Economy is one of the major initiatives of CARICOM.
“This matter was stalled under the UNC that she led and by 2015 was removed as an agenda item on the Meeting of Heads of Government. Incidentally, this action was taken in the absence of any representative of Trinidad and Tobago present and or objecting. This was because the then Prime Minister, who is now the Opposition Leader and is now asking questions about the effectiveness of CARICOM, saw it fit to be at a party celebration at Coco Reef Hotel in Tobago, at the very moment, rather than at the Caricom meeting where serious decisions were being taken. Clearly, it was more important to drink and sing out of tune with party insiders than it was to advance the interests of the people of Trinidad and Tobago at a Heads of Government Meeting.”
“At my first Heads of Government Meeting, as Prime Minister, I moved to have the CSME returned to the Caricom agenda and followed up with a Special two-day Meeting of Caricom at the Trinidad Hilton, to deal specifically with the CSME. This resulted in the St Ann’s Accord which got unanimous support from all states and protected our markets for manufactured goods and created and preserved jobs in our country and elsewhere in Caricom.”
Rowley added, “It is also to be noted that on the very day that Ministers in Trinidad and Tobago are in the papers confirming that 70,000 lbs of high-quality rice seeds have arrived from Guyana and are being distributed to local farmers to plant about 3,000 acres of rice in Trinidad, the mischievous Opposition Leader is questioning what Caricom is doing about food supplies. This is after Caricom Expositions and farmer mobilisation that she publicly boycotted. The rice, shade house and shrimp projects are directly out of the Caricom initiatives in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, involving the training and development of thousands of young people in many programmes in both countries in an effort to reduce our food import bill by 25 per cent in the first instance. It also includes the production of tradeable volumes of corn and soya for animal feed requirements.”
He said these are but a few of the well-publicized activities that are currently underway and spoken about by Ministers locally and regionally. Yet, he said, the Opposition Leader who has done so much to damage and belittle our regional effort is today asking questions about the effectiveness and relevance of Caricom.
“My advice to Trinidad and Tobago and the region is to please ignore her insincerity and let’s press on to another fifty years of progress led by those who believe in the boundless faith in our destiny as a country and as a united and ever more effective CARICOM,” said Rowley.