Kamla: No regrets for ATM comment
Several weeks after first telling the Caribbean that Trinidad and Tobago shouldn’t be treated by its neighbours as if it were an automatic teller machine from which money could be extracted, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the twin-island republic’s first female Prime Minister, doesn’t have any second thoughts about her warning and the language she used to articulate her feelings.
“I do not believe it was a mistake,” she said in New York. “My first commitment must be to the people of Trinidad and Tobago and there is a lot of angst, anger, in the past for Trinidad and Tobago to be seen as the godfather of the rest of the Caribbean.
“When there was flooding in Trinidad and Tobago or other serious issues arose, people didn’t feel they were getting the type of interest and response they deserved.”
And so with the “greatest respect to the CARICOM heads, it was not meant to belittle” but the reference to an ATM was meant to send a strong message to the “people of Trinidad and Tobago” to let them know that the new government was acting in their best interest first, Bissessar stated.
She said what was particularly interesting about her statement was that the only one who reacted negatively was not a current CARICOM leader but former Jamaica PM, Percival J. Patterson.
Bissessar said her new government was insisting on a mutually beneficial partnership between her country and its neighbours.
“It can’t be a one-way street and I think the heads appreciated that,” she stated.
However, she reaffirmed Trinidad and Toabgo’s commitment to the regional integration movement.
“The commitment to regional integration remains very strong on the part of Trinidad and Tobago,” she told a WWRL radio audience in New York.
“But it is regrettable that all the years in search of regional integration we have not seen the level of desired integration,” she said.
Hence, the need to change the “governance structure” of CARICOM.
“We have set up a team headed by Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding to look into the governance structures that definitely needed changing.”
As Bissessar sees it, a shining example of the beneficial effects of regional integration was the University of the West Indies whose three campuses in Kingston, St Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago and Cave Hill in Barbados have helped to shape her perspective on the region.
“But as I say a lot more can be done,” she insisted.