OUR CARIBBEAN: Surprising US alert on T&T
GOVERNMENTS AROUND the world often surprise us – some more than others – by the timing, if not the nature as well, of official statements involving other friendly nations. This has just occurred involving the United States and Trinidad and Tobago, currently coping with most daunting wave of gun-related killings
I am today focused on the significance of the timing and content of a statement released this past weekend by the US State Department. It had to do with a warning to Americans and other citizens of the world that Trinidad and Tobago is currently quite an “unsafe” country to visit amid spiralling gun-related killings, violence and other forms of criminality.
The alert could hardly have been missed by the government and people of this major partner state of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Relevant as such statements/warnings may be, they could well result in quite negative/harmful social and economic consequences for the country identified with the particular challenge/problem.
Small and vulnerable economies in our region, heavily depend on tourism – Barbados and OECS states for example – are coping with quite serious criminality challenges, while conscious of serious harm that could result to a major source of much needed foreign exchange.
The official public statement by the US State Department came like a shot in the dark on the eve of an official visit to Washington by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
This column was being written ahead of a scheduled press conference Monday at Piarco International airport by Prime Minister Rowley, prior to his scheduled official visits to the US, Britain and Ghana. Hopefully, Dr Rowley would have considered it quite relevant to share his response to the surprising press release rolled out by the US State Department this past weekend.
A question of relevance is why an apparent publicity-grabbing anxiety in Washington on spreading criminality in T&T, knowing that Dr Rowley himself would be – should be – keen to provide an update when US/T&T relations are discussed during his scheduled official meeting in Washington?
After all, not just Washington, but “superpower” US as a whole bears the distressing burden as a leading gun-related crime-ridden, narco-trafficking nation of the world. It is a burden and shame that all CARICOM states, as well as other nations in the western hemisphere share with the US – irrespective of who occupies the White House as President.
From the perspective of this columnist, Dr Rowley might well find himself sharing with the US State Department – ahead of moving on to London and Accra – (contrasting agendas?) – information on crime and security. And not just about T&T but the entire CARICOM region – if so disposed – consistent with the lead portfolio responsibility he holds as current Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.
In the circumstances, and as previously occurred, at times the head of a CARICOM government could well officially advise/update, in good faith, on crime and security challenges facing a Community partner state prior to such information being made public to the affect citizens and nation.
Nevertheless, the fact that the US State Department so hurriedly chose to make public its “advisory” (sic) on spreading criminality in “unsafe” T&T, ahead of Prime Minister Rowley’s scheduled official visit to Washington cannot objectively be viewed as merely a political gaffe that could be ignored by warm smiles and firm handshakes.