T&T PM: Public servants caused Dominica vote

(Trinidad Guardian) Public officials who usurped the authority of the political directorate and not Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses, were responsible for T&T’s recent refusal to support Dominica’s request for waiver of its dues for the Organisation of American States (OAS) last month.

That’s the direction in which Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has pointed following receipt of reports from officials at all levels – including Moses – involved in the issue.

The issue recently brought a negative international spotlight after T&T refused to back Dominica’s bid for waiver of its 2018-2019 OAS dues at a March 23 meeting, in the face of its continuing struggles in the wake of the devastation caused to the country by Hurricane Maria last year.

Speaking at Thursday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, Rowley revealed that a Foreign Affairs Ministry acting deputy permanent secretary eventually advised that T&T follow a February decision in which Caricom states refused to give one country a waiver on an issue different to Dominca’s.

Rowley said although the ministry’s Permanent Secretary later agreed T&T should support Dominica’s waiver, she failed to inform Moses of the matter.

Further, Rowley revealed T&T wasn’t represented at a March 15 meeting where all Organisation of American States (OAS) members unanimously agreed to support Dominica’s waiver request. He said he was still trying to find out why T&T was absent from this meeting, noting the country’s absence from this meeting had also contributed to the embarrassing situation.

Rowley said the reports he received, “… make for disturbing reading. Not for the first time, I’ve had to be concerned about certain actions taken by persons who may not have followed established procedure – or worse usurped the authority where that authority lies.”

He said the matter could have been easily avoided if simple procedures were followed.

“Not for the first time, I’ve had to deal with something like this where people have usurped the authority of the political directorate. So it’s easy to call for the minister’s head or mine, but I like to deal with facts and to hold people accountable for their actions.”

He said he’s now put the matter in the hands of former Foreign Affairs career diplomat Ambassador Christopher Thomas to analyse.

But Rowley made it clear that as Prime Minister – who appoints PSs – he can take action.

He said he was shocked and embarrassed by T&T’s refusal to support Dominica’s waiver request at the OAS’s March 23 meeting. The matter generated local and regional debate. Rowley, however, noted T&T’s strong support for Dominica following its 2017 hurricane devastation. This was articulated by Moses at the United Nations and T&T Ambassador to the UN Pennelope Beckles also.

The PM said it was therefore surprising and shocking that anyone could claim not to know T&T’s “level of empathy and commitment” to Dominica, “particularly office holders whose job it is to portray T&T abroad and those at home who support those abroad.”

When the Dominica issue occurred, he said he immediately enquired who was directing policy, “because clearly that was change of policy that required input from the political directorate.”

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