Monday, February 19, 2018

Paula: PM made diplomat misstep

Japan denies its prime minister to visit

 Point Fortin MP Paula Gopee Scoon has described as an “unfortunate diplomatic embarrassment”  the repudiation of a public announcement by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, on the intention of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to visit Trinidad and Tobago.

Gopee-Scoon stated this was unprecedented in Trinidad and Tobago’s diplomacy. Recently, an announcement by the Prime Minister that her Japanese counterpart was set to visit Trinidad and Tobago, was denied by the Embassy of Japan.

She said: “That the Japanese government should find it necessary to issue a press release hurriedly contradicting a public statement by this country’s Prime Minister is not only diplomatically awkward but again sends the message about our unpreparedness for the international stage,” Gopee-Scoon said in a statement issued last week.

“While there is nothing wrong with using diplomacy to attempt to have the Japanese Prime Minister append a visit to Trinidad and Tobago on his scheduled visit to Latin America, it would have been preferable that Mrs Persad-Bissessar first do her homework to find pressing issues that would be of interest to the Japanese and for which Trinidad and Tobago and Caricom would be able to help. By rushing to make a premature announcement on a matter in which the Japanese Prime Minister has not even appraised his Parliament or his country, she embarrassed herself and our long-standing Japanese partners.

“This is similar to her attempts, announced in a press release from the People’s Republic of China, to have Trinidad and Tobago procure a vessel from that country without doing the necessary homework. This has led to some last-minute back-tracking as the Government attempts to undo the image created by the Prime Minister that the purchase of Long Range Vessels from China was a done decision.” 

Gopee-Scoon added: “The visit to China also has the potential of causing further problems with our Caricom neighbours. The Prime Minister’s request for a TT$5 billion (US$750 million) loan from the Chinese government which constitutes 25 percent of the US$3 billion financing capacity made available to the 15-member Caricom region, at a time when the Trinidad and Tobago Minister of Finance only this week announced a $4.5 billion budgetary surplus in the first quarter of the current financial year, must have sent a pause to our cash-strapped regional partners who would have been eyeing the Chinese facility to treat with their pressing infrastructural needs. 

“The timing of the facility also put the Chinese in the awkward position of seeming to interfere in the Trinidad and Tobago election process by making money available to the Government for vote-buying projects on the eve of a general election,” the Point Fortin MP added.