Trinidad: PM ‘shocked’ at Dominica faux pas

Trinidad: PM ‘shocked’ at Dominica faux pas
PM Rowley
EMBARRASSED: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley addresses the media at yesterday’s post-Cabinet briefing at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s. PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI

(T&T NEWSDAY) – FORMER ambassador Christopher Thomas will probe TT’s recent objection to Dominica’s plea for a two-year waiver of dues at the Organisation of American States (OAS), Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.

Saying the incident had left him “shocked and embarrassed”, Rowley used the occasion to praise his Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dennis Moses as “very experienced though not flamboyant”, but alluded to blame elsewhere.

He lamented that ahead of the critical vote at the OAS, where TT is represented by Anthony Phillip-Spencer, TT had no presence at a preparatory meeting where the waiver was agreed to by other OAS states.

Rowley initially outlined all the help his Government had given to hurricane-hit Dominica, such as 126 Defence Force personnel, a helicopter for search and rescue, and an opening of the doors of private homes and schools in TT to Dominicans wishing to come here. TT also gave 36 tonnes of aid to Dominica.

Saying that he had inserted “Caricom” into the name of Moses’ ministry, Rowley said, “We’ll always be willing to share what little we have with our brothers and sisters in Caricom.” He recalled TT’s commitment to Dominica had also been voiced by Moses at the United Nations (UN) and by TT’s UN Ambassador Pennelope Beckles at a donor conference. Rowley said TT’s empathy and commitment to the people of Dominica was clearly established.

However he lamented that TT’s subsequent vote at the OAS on March 23 “came as a shock to me” and he asked how could this be and who was directing that policy. He had sought and received comprehensive reports from all levels of those involved in that matter and the minister.

Rowley sombrely said, “It makes disturbing reading.

“Not for the first time, I have got to be concerned about certain actions taken by persons who may not have followed established procedures, or worse, usurped the authority where that authority lies.” He said the deputy director of the ministry’s Americas Division had written to the PS advising that a waiver for Dominica “should be supported.”

Rowley noted that unknown to the Government, TT representation was unusually absent from the OAS preparatory meeting on March 15 (ahead of March 23) where agendas and positions were worked out, including a unanimous decision to support the waiver, a stance consistent with this country’s position on Dominica.

However he remarked that on March 22, TT officials at the OAS were still seeking guidance from the ministry on the vote, even as the ministry itself was not advised of the OAS’ decision of March 15 to support the waiver. He also noted that support for the waiver would cost TT nothing, as TT would not have to pay Dominica’s fees.

While TT had a past policy of objecting to fee waivers, such as for a member state in Caricom last February, Rowley lamented that Cabinet’s fresh stance to support a waiver for Dominica had not been adopted by some Public Service officials.

Rowley related the permanent secretary’s (PS) account where he/she had agreed to the waiver, but had added, “However I failed to forward the matter to the minister as is the standard procedure and as I am accustomed to.” He read the minister’s account where Moses said a procedure exists for the PS to send details of policy to the minister for his nod.

“I was never consulted, nor was any submission made to me on this matter. I was not aware Dominica would request a waiver. It is instructive that I was physically present in the ministry and had extensive discussions with the PS during the period March 23 that the unauthorised position was conveyed to the embassy in Washington.”


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