(T&T GUARDIAN) – As the debate rages on about who is responsible for the diplomatic blunder in which T&T voted against Dominica’s bid to waive its OAS contributions for the next two years, there have been renewed calls for the dismissal of Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dennis Moses.
This is in light of a letter sent to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Thursday by T&T’s Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States, retired Brigadier General Anthony Phillips-Spencer, who stated that he followed the instructions given by Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs.
Still distressed by the effects of Hurricane Maria which battered the island in September 2017, Dominica sought approval to forgo their contributions for 2018 and 2019 as they rebuild.
A memorandum, obtained by the T&T Guardian, showed that T&T’s Mission in Washington DC had suggested to the ministry that this country should support Dominica’s bid. Following further correspondence between the ministry and the Mission, Phillips-Spencer told the meeting that T&T had offered the proposal for consideration of deferral of payments of contributions by member states and where possible, the possibility of a payment plan.
Following criticisms locally and internationally, the ministry issued a release last Thursday stating that Rowley had requested a report and it was investigating the circumstances which led to a public official’s opposing vote. The release stated that “The Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs regrets the misrepresentation of the position of T&T offered by a public official of Trinidad and Tobago during a meeting of the Permanent Council of the OAS.” In an interview, Moses told Guardian Media that the ministry’s position was not different to Dominica’s request.
However, Phillips-Spencer’s letter to Rowley, in which Moses was copied on Thursday, stated that in communicating T&T’s position, he acted in compliance with written instructions from the ministry after the meeting had already begun. He also referred to the media release with concern, saying that the claim of misrepresentation was “inaccurate and false.” He said the instructions given by the ministry contradicted the advice from his Mission, which was to support Dominica.
There are more burning questions for Moses and PM Rowley to answer, however.
The Sunday Guardian made several attempts to contact Moses and Rowley through calls, text and WhatsApp messages yesterday, but there were no responses.
In those messages, they were asked:
• Who was responsible for the instructions given to Phillips-Spencer?
• Who sets T&T’s foreign policy?
• Does the Cabinet discusses foreign policy issues ahead of OAS meetings?
• Is it customary for the Prime Minister to not know what representatives will say on behalf of T&T at a multilateral meeting?
The PM also did not respond to a question on whether or not he had received the letter from Phillips-Spencer.
‘Moses should be fired’
Meanwhile, former foreign affairs minister Dr Surujrattan Rambachan (UNC) and former permanent representative to the United Nation (UN) Rodney Charles said Rowley should fire Moses and apologise to Dominica and Caricom.
Charles said Moses has made T&T into a laughing stock and many of his colleagues back in the United Kingdom had contacted him in recent times, asking “What is going on with T&T?”
He said Moses was not giving the strategic guidance to the ministry and has not yet effectively responded to several travel advisories against T&T.
“The Prime Minister must understand that he cannot put personal friendship ahead of the country’s interest and international image. The time has come to remove Dennis Moses. He may be a good man, he may have competencies, but not in his role as Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Prime Minister should be the one to apologise to the government and people of Dominica,” Charles said.
Rambachan said it was not the first “boo boo” Moses has made, recalling T&T’s decision to abstain from voting on a resolution moved by the UN after US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The General Assembly voted 128-9 to deem Trump’s declaration “null and void.”
Chairman of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) Gregory Fernandez said the responsibility fell with Moses, who has been failing the country.
“The buck stops with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He is failing us and his appointment should be terminated,” Fernandez said.
He said it was the MSJ’s view that Moses messed up and it was not the first occasion, also referring to the Jerusalem vote.
COP: Govt needs to be open and transparent
Political leader of the Congress of the People Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan said her party was still awaiting Government’s explanation.
Seepersad-Bachan said it was obvious that Phillips-Spencer would have been advised to take an opposing stance. She said the Government needs to be open and transparent on foreign policy.
Someone should be held accountable for this embarrassment—Prakash
St Augustine MP Prakash Ramadhar, meanwhile, said he awaits the report on the “diplomatic embarrassment” which was requested by Rowley, and hopes that Phillips-Spencer is not made a scapegoat by those who should bear responsibility.
“It was obvious looking at our ambassador that he was very uncomfortable saying what he had said. He is usually very articulate and has served this country well in more than one capacity.
“Someone has to be held accountable for such diplomatic embarrassment. The very least we must do is to officially apologise to our friends and colleagues at the OAS and our brothers and sisters of Dominica.”