Uproar over Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar’s Comments Continues

The uproar caused over the aid-with-strings attached remarks by the Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister in the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas in the Eastern Caribbean, continues unabated. Here are excerpts from the BBC Caribbean’s “Storm in a Tea-cup?” with a link to the full article below:

Senior cabinet minister Jack Warner has come to her defence, and he did not mince his words: “I make no apologies. Who want to vex, vex and who don’t want to buy Trinidad and Tobago goods, no buy, because we must take care of our own and charity begins at home.” Mr. Warner, Minister of Works and Transport, was reacting to criticism of his leader who has demanded “something in return” for aid from her country to hurricane-ravaged CARICOM members.

Hurricane Tomas ripped through St Lucia and St Vincent the weekend of 30 October. While it also swept through Barbados and affected other islands, St Lucia and St Vincent bore the brunt of the storm. In St Lucia seven people are confirmed to have died and millions of dollars damage to property and the economy has been done in both countries. The Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, offered help, but on some conditions: her country would expect something back in return. [Also see previous post She Said What? Trinidad PM Takes Heat over Relief Aid Comments.] There was immediate outcry from people and businesses across the region that her remarks were insensitive. Some even called for a boycott of goods from Trinidad and Tobago.

But locally in Trinidad, the prime minister’s quid-pro-quo insistence was denounced by the country’s opposition leader. Dr. Keith Rowley said attempting to tie the aid on offer to trade and business opportunities for citizens of Trinidad and Tobago was shameful, and would cost the country its valuable leadership role in regional grouping CARICOM. He also described it as a backward colonial policy.

But Mrs Persad-Bissessar said her comments were misconstrued and sought to put her remarks in context but she did not deviate from her policy convictions. “I see nothing wrong with that. Internationally that’s what’s done.”

Then the St Vincent and Grenadines Foreign Minister entered the fray. Dr. Louis Straker called it demeaning and demanded an apology. “It reflects great selfishness. I am very, very disappointed by the statement and feel very strongly that she needs to reconsider it, reflect on it … and would want to offer an apology for what she has said,” he stated.

[. . .] But Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar has won some sympathy if not outright support from her St Lucia counterpart Stephenson King.  She was in Castries last week on a hurricane relief mission from Port of Spain where she said the aid taken to St Lucia didn’t have any strings attached. Welcoming the gesture, Mr. King declared: “Sometimes in the region we are very emotional about statements made by regional leaders. We need to be more tolerant.”

The Barbados-based Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC)—a coalition of Caribbean non-governmental organizations—has been monitoring the furor over the comments made by the Trinidad Prime Minister. The CPDC’s Executive Director, Cecilia Babb, feels the comments were in bad taste.

See original article at http://www.bbc.co.uk/caribbean/news/story/2010/11/101108_kamlastorm.shtml

Photo from http://www.caribbeandailynews.com/uwi-congratulates-first-female-tt-prime-minister/

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