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Kamla opts out of Clinton meeting

Andrew Browne, [email protected]

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PORT-OF-SPAIN – Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar blanked yesterday’s Caribbean Community (CARICOM) meeting with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Barbados, because she felt it was an insult to the people who elected her to travel without taking the parliamentary oath.
Persad-Bissessar gave this explanation on Tuesday in response to criticism from Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, who said the Prime Minister’s failure to attend the meeting was “a dereliction of duty”.
“I was of the view that we have not been sworn into the Parliament, and it is the people who elected us to represent them there. It would be offensive to the people to travel to represent them without taking the oath in the Parliament,” said Persad-Bissessar in a brief interview with the Express by phone.
She said therefore a policy decision had been taken that no minister would embark on foreign travel on behalf of the people of this country until Parliament was convened on June 18.
Persad-Bissessar said that technocrats would represent this country at the CARICOM meeting and apologies were extended to Clinton and other heads for her absence.
She added that CARICOM was informed that a new government was elected and a decision was taken that there would be no foreign travel until the parliamentary oath was taken.
“We meant no disrespect to anyone,” stressed Persad-Bissessar.
Rowley, however, believed that Persad-Bissessar missed out on a golden opportunity for this country.
“The meeting with Hillary Clinton is a major issue to us in the Caribbean. The fact that there was an election and the government changed cannot interfere with that; we still have a government,” Rowley told the Express by phone.
“The government doesn’t understand its role that she as prime minister is saying I am not going to this most important meeting, with this most important trading partner because I have not taken an oath in Parliament.
“Somebody must tell Kamla she is not the prime minister in the Parliament which is the legislator; she is the prime minister of the executive. She has taken an oath at Knowsley and that oath is good enough. She is now the prime minister,” he added. (Trinidad Express)