OUR CARIBBEAN: Will Barbados explain its UN no-vote?
It is generally accepted as a sovereign right of independent states to vote at international fora, and especially at the United Nations, as considered necessary in its national interest.
Equally, that such a “right” ought not to be detached from a moral obligation by the government of that independent nation to at least provide some explanation/rationalization to its own citizens for casting that vote – whether its for, against, or to abstain.
In this context it is, therefore, to be expected that the Barbados Government may yet feel that sense of obligation to offer an explanation for its quite surprising decision to abstain from last Friday’s historic overwhelming vote by the UN General Assembly to approve non-member observer status for the Palestinian Authority.
The Authority, which administers an elected democratic government, remains committed to an elusive two-state policy with both Israel and Palestine living peacefully as independent neighbours within defined borders.
Last Friday’s United Nations vote, viewed as an implicit “statehood” development, with 138 nations in favour; merely nine against (led by the United States), and 41 abstentions, had the immediate reaction of moving Israel into furthering its controversial expansionist programme of building homes for thousands of Israelis in recognized Palestinian territory on the West Bank.
Among those abstaining within our Caribbean Community were Haiti and The Bahamas. No surprises for either. Certainly not in the case of the Haitian government, one very much on its economic knees and not difficult to persuade by a Washington administration that often speaks with a forked tongue on a “two-state” policy.
So far as the seven-month old administration of Prime Minister Perry Christie’s Progressive Liberal Party in The Bahamas is concerned, the surprise would have been if it had voted for the Palestinian Authority’s new status – against the expressed desire of Washington.
The really big surprise, so far as our Caribbean Community of a dozen independent states is concerned, is that Barbados, one of the so-called “Big Four” of the regional economic integration movement and with an acquired record in avoiding breaking of diplomatic ranks, chose to exercise its abstention vote on a most historical development involving the Palestinian people.
In so doing, and in comparison with the other members of the “Big Four” – Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago – not to mention small partner nations like Grenada, Dominica, St Lucia, St Vincent and Grenadines, St Kitts and Nevis, that voted for – Barbados’ abstention decision seems deserving of an official explanation.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.