Surprising stand by T&T minister
WHAT APPEARED a week ago today as a politically enlightened agreement between the foreign ministers of Jamaica (Arnold Nicholson) and Trinidad and Tobago (Winston Dookeran) now seems to have developed into an unexpected problem for Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
As of yesterday, while she was travelling to South Africa as head of a broadly based official Trinidad and Tobago delegation for the state funeral of the internationally respected human rights icon Nelson Mandela, Persad-Bissessar would undoubtedly have had under consideration options in relation to the recent public rebuke of Minister of Foreign Affairs Dookeran by her National Security Minister Senator Gary Griffith.
Quite a positive mood had initially greeted the signing of a detailed agreement between the two foreign ministers in Kingston to promote and improve general bilateral relations following the recent deportation from Trinidad and Tobago of 13 Jamaicans that had led to persistent angry calls from various sectors in Jamaica for a boycott of trade with that twin-island state.
Then came the surprising declaration from Mr Griffith to the local media that his ministerial colleague, Mr Dookeran, was “out of place” to have entered into an agreement without first “consulting with me” since he, and not the foreign minister, was responsible for immigration and other matters pertaining to national security.
What the national security minister quite surprisingly ignored in his apparent anxiety to fire off verbal salvos at a colleague is that Mr Dookeran’s meeting with his Jamaican counterpart had resulted from an understanding at prime ministerial level in both Kingston and Port of Spain and based on a written invitation from Mr Nicholson.
When Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar subsequently announced that she had informed Mr Dookeran to meet with Mr Nicholson to resolve the problems that had surfaced in relation to immigration and bilateral trade, there was no indication, either in Kingston or Port of Spain, for any involvement for their respective national security ministers.
In the circumstances, the evident tantrum of minister Griffith, a newcomer to governance politics, and specifically as minister of national security – following the departure of the controversial Jack Warner – would have come as a most unwelcome and unnecessary development for the prime minister, particularly after some bruising political defeats at recent local government elections.
In contrast to a cool, mature response from Mr Dookeran to media inquiries that the agreement reached in Kingston would not affect the responsibility of the minister for national security, Senator Griffith persisted with more negative comments about CARICOM citizens, not only Jamaicans, who were “abusing” their freedom to visit Trinidad and Tobago.
Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar would have difficulties ignoring the particular derogatory remark by Mr Griffith that CARICOM citizens were treating Trinidad and Tobago as “a shopping mall” in their exploitation of the Community’s provisions governing intra-regional freedom of movement.
We therefore await developments on this issue on the prime minister’s return from South Africa.