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Monday 22 July 2019
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Farley questions rationale for Charles China trip

Assemblyman Farley Augustine, the Minority People’s Democratic Patriot’s represensentative for Palatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside, wants more information to be made public on the trip to China by Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles and Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment, Councillor Kwesi Des Vignes.

Charles and Des Vignes departed Tobago on Monday to attend the China-Latin America and the Caribbean (CLAC) International Exposition in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, China, hosted by the China Chamber of International Commerce (CCOIC) and organised by the Zhuhai Municipal People’s Government.

The CLAC Expo which begin today.

Newsday Tobago understands that the Tobago team also comprises Protocol Co-ordinator Janelle Aquing and police officer Handel Mark on security detail, for the ten-day trip.

Information made available to the media said the invitation came from the Chinese Embassy, through the TT Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, and is being sponsored by the Government of the People’s Republic of China.

Augustine told Newsday Tobago on Tuesday that international engagements as embarked on by Charles and Des Vignes must be the result of a clear strategic plan.

“Everyone in Tobago is asking, “What is this trip for?” People are asking because public communications on their (the Tobago team) travel came merely some hours before the departure of the Chief Secretary and the Secretary for Infrastructure. People are still not clear about the strategic intent of the trip. What are the goals of this trip? What is hoped to achieve? Is it their intention to seek loan funding from China? More BOLT arrangements from China? Partnering with China just for infrastructure development?

“Has the Executive Council discussed the international relations behaviour of China and their neo-colonial mannerisms? Have

they compared doing business with China as oppose to other global players?” he asked.

Augustine said an important and glaring omission from the trip were public servants and technocrats.

“Why weren’t any of them carried? Who is there to guide these two novices and to keep them in line with the nation’s international relations policies?” he asked.

Augustine added:

“The Chief Secretary has left the island in a mess: workers remain unpaid, families can’t have access to an efficient ambulance service as ambulances are parked up and left to rot, the road network on the east of the island is falling apart, the fallouts from poor tourism marketing continues unabated, the inter-island ferry service is almost dead and the list goes on …

“The people are becoming impatient and the Chief Secretary has not sufficiently justified his travel at this time.”

PDP Minority Councillor Dr Faith B Yisrael said it was sad that the public had to hear about Charles trip in the media.

“We have no information apart from the brief description given in the press release about what he is going to do. This is critical because the Chief Secretary has not taken the time to consult with the people he represents. Will he come back, and like the Prime Minister with Sandals, tell us that some deal has been made? That has been the issue with the style of governance offered by the PNM - it is not democratic,” she said.

CLAC is promoted as a platform for cross-border cooperation and the Exposition is being held to enhance economic and trade cooperation between China and Latin American and Caribbean countries, a news release from the Office of the Chief Secretary said.

The release said that by promoting cross-border cooperation, CLAC will provide an economy and trade platform to build friendly contacts between China and Latin American enterprises, a communication platform to expand the Maritime Silk Road to Latin America, a development platform to help promote the deep economic integration of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao, and a powerful platform to implement the experimental role of the Guangdong Pilot Free Trade Zone.

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