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Kamla lashed over comment

by Tony Best

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Crass and deeply offensive!
That’s how Trinidad and Tobago’s Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley has described the “unfortunate” and inappropriate characterisation of humanitarian assistance to storm-ravaged Eastern Caribbean nations as a form of investment by their energy-rich neighbour.
“There is a misrepresentation of humanitarian aid as investment,” Rowley told the Daily Nation in New York after addressing a Brooklyn town hall meeting.
“Humanitarian aid could never be an investment. A humanitarian response to a disaster could never be seen or ought not to be seen as an investment, and when one makes that kind of mistake it is unfortunate. But again, there is this reference to what happened before. The current government is trying to do things differently and since the PNM (People’s National Movement) was doing it one way, the attempt to do it differently leads to these missteps.
“The CARICOM Petroleum Fund that was in place, put there by the PNM government to assist the Caricom territories, while we did not put it there and say that’s really to help Trinidad and Tobago, but the effect of it was that it was meant to give the neighbouring economies more support so that they can continue to be healthy and as long as they are healthy the knock-on effect of that was that Trinidad and Tobago’s economy would have a market to which we can sell.
“That really is the working of it (Fund). But we don’t really go out and say ‘I am giving you this because I want to get that.’ It is just crass and we did criticise that. Humanitarian aid you don’t link that to a quid pro quo.”
Rowley, a geologist who took over the PNM leadership in the wake of the party’s crushing defeat by the Kamla Persad-Bissessar coalition in the May general election, had previously told a standing-room only crowd at the Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York, that his prime minister’s recent comments about the country’s neighbours were deeply offensive.
The prime minister’s contentious remarks which triggered an avalanche of criticisms across the Caribbean followed a request for help from St Vincent’s leader Dr Ralph Gonsalves, in the wake of widespread damage to agricultural crops, homes and public buildings by torrential rains and high winds of Hurricane Tomas. St Lucia suffered the worst damage, estimated at US$100 million, while about 12 people lost their lives.
In her statement, Trinidad and Tobago’s first female head of government said that “we will have to look at ways in which we would be able to assist. But you would recall my comments earlier this year, when I said there must besome way in which Trinidad and Tobago would also benefit.”
She was immediately attacked in Jamaica, Barbados and the rest of the region by analysts who complained that she was attempting to provide benefits to her country’s private sector from the tragedies and suffering of neighbours.
In addition, they believed her administration might have been attempting to introduce a policy of tied-aid, meaning humanitarian assistance with strings attached.