Kudos for PM
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is to be congratulated for rising above her early blunders to assume Trinidad and Tobago’s leadership responsibility to distressed members of the Caricom family.
The quick response of support to storm ravaged St Lucia and St Vincent has gone a good way in earning back the respect for T&T that was so needlessly squandered by thoughtless comments about this country not being an ATM for Caricom countries and her position of “aid for trade”.
In their moment of great need last week, the Eastern Caribbean islands were able to find a willing and generous hand extended by their oil-rich neighbour to the south. While there are sound economic reasons for supporting members of Caricom, the most profound reason in moments of distress is that it is the responsibility of family to help each other.
When her stint as Chairman of Caricom comes to an end tomorrow, Mrs Persad-Bissessar would have redeemed herself by a decisive responsiveness to the storm crisis as well as by Caricom’s strong position on the Dominican Republic’s Constitution Court ruling that has denationalised thousands of persons of Haitian descent. On the DR issue, the PM showed herself to be a quick learner in recovering from an early fumble to follow the uncompromising lead set by St Vincent PM Ralph Gonzalves.
One Caricom issue that still lacks the required clarity is that of T&T’s readiness for complying with the terms of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas as it pertains to the free movement of Caricom nationals. The recent row over this country’s deportation of Jamaicans revealed a policy incoherence at the level of the cabinet that needs to be sorted out urgently within the framework of the CCJ’s ruling in the Shanique Myrie case.
What these examples demonstrate is the steep learning curve that awaits every prime minister who comes to office without the required knowledge and understanding of T&T’s role and obligations as a leader of the regional integration movement. It is the price to be paid for the insular nature of our politics that keeps our politicians’ noses too close to the ground to see the larger picture of T&T in the region and in the wider world.
It also speaks to the need for our political leaders to prepare themselves for holding office and for our political parties to rise above the puerility of personality politics and engage the issues that will confront them in office, whether in government or in opposition.
To be fair, this state of affairs describes not only the politics of T&T but of the wider Caribbean where the political party system remains trapped in old habits of division.
For now though, let us acknowledge that the PM has done us proud in this case.
All T&T should also give thanks for the natural bounty of oil and gas that allows us to give willingly to those in need. The goods and expertise sent in our name have gone a good way in alleviating our neighbours’ immediate pain.