(Trinidad Guardian) Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has accused the media of insulting him by insinuating that the Dragon Gas deal is something personal between himself and Venezuelan President Nicolas Muduro.
He made the comment yesterday as he fielded questions from the media during the first day of the Energy Conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port-of-Spain.
“You people in the media and some ne’er-do-wells in Trinidad and Tobago have been making this appear as if it is something personal between Maduro and me and I think you all are insulting me as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and insulting your country,” Rowley said.
“This is not a personal matter. If it (Dragon gas deal) never works out then it never works out but we tried to open a door. We got to the point where we now have a gas price. So it doesn’t matter who is in Venezuela, that is a useful place.”
He added: “What we don’t want is chaos in Venezuela because then we are all in trouble because nothing could really happen. What we are trying to avoid is chaos by invitation.”
The PM said it matters not who is head of the government of Venezuela, reiterating that the deal is a matter between the “people of Venezuela and the people of T&T.” He maintained that the arrangement T&T currently has with Venezuela is not based on a regime but rather on the country’s existence.
“We have not taken sides. We are neutral in this matter. We have no horse in the race but we have a grave concern at the outcome of their issues,” Rowley said.
US Ambassador to T&T Joseph Mondello has, however, described as “deeply concerning” statements coming from the T&T Government recognising the “undemocratic and illegitimate government” of Maduro. But Rowley has fired back at Mondello, saying, “I take umbrage at the United States Ambassador in Trinidad and Tobago making a public statement, criticising the actions of the government of Trinidad and Tobago as we take action in protection of the interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Last week the Donald Trump administration imposed sanctions Venezuela.
Asked yesterday whether he was concerned there may be negative repercussions for this country since the US is T&T’s largest trading partner, Rowley said, “Whenever I hear that kind of concern it reminds me of the woman with a man in her house and a daughter and the daughter complains to her about the man’s behaviour and she takes the position that if I stand up on principle with this child the man might leave me.
“We in T&T and in Caricom…We don’t subscribe to that.”
He said principles are “not of convenience,” pointing out that Caricom is once again set to take part in multilateral discussions aimed at finding a peaceful solution to political tensions in Venezuela.
The same delegation, headed by Caricom chairman and St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris, and including Barbados PM Mia Mottley and Rowley, will head to Uruguay this week to take part in multilateral talks with that country and Mexico in the hope of being able to broker peace dialogue between Maduro and his challenger, National Assembly leader and self-declared interim president of the country Juan Guaido.
On whether he was concerned regarding the US’ future relationship with T&T and Caricom, Rowley said as far as he was aware there was no issue.
“We have no issue about the relationship between us and the US. We have a difference of opinion on an approach on a matter which is very important to us. We reserve the right to entertain, advance and defend that point of view without compromising our position,” Rowley added.