THE EDITOR: A headstone marker often seen in some Western movies is, “Here lies a man of solid principles” and one cannot miss the cynicism in the message of someone being gunned down for standing up for principle or the “right” as is the famous case of Stonewall Jackson standing up to the gunman Wilson for the right to walk the street, in the great movie Shane.
And there are many instances of this correlation between standing up for a principle and suffering for it, as Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar who would love the name of “honour” more than he feared death, and commit suicide out of that sense of honour, or Japanese airmen who would ram their planes into enemy ships for the noble act of defending their country.
Even in our own country we are sure to be courting death or serious injury if we stood up for the principle of defending our families against criminals. Surely, to be principled, according to conventional values, is a noble thing and it’s a legacy which will stand the test of time, but are such values changing and is the issue of principle as the morally right course to take, giving way more and more to what is more politically expedient and serving our own private interests?
This short preamble is intended to provide a context for the “principled” stand of non-intervention taken by the Prime Minister and other Caricom partners with respect to the Venezuelan crisis and to inquire into the possible “suffering” that would follow.
I have already, in a previous letter, queried the basis of their “principled” stance of non-intervention in the affairs of a sovereign country, acknowledging its conformity to the OAS Charter of non-intervention in sovereign states but I also questioned whether the “sovereignty” of Venezuela could have been breached by the numerous violations reported in its internal affairs.
A question to be asked also is whether this principled stance has an element of the political in it; in the case of TT, to ensure the Loran/Manatee/Dragon gas deal is not jeopardised, and for other Caricom countries, their indebtedness to Venezuela for oil and oil products, currently manageable by “soft” terms of repayment, is also not endangered.
Be that as it may, to follow the preamble above, the other question to ask is what “suffering” we are likely to endure because of this stance on “principle.” Valmiki Arjoon, an economist at UWI, in an article in the Sunday Express of February 3, entitled “The peril’s of T&T’s position on Venezuela,” outlines a whole range of economic possibilities that may arise from this country’s implicit anti-US stance and also that of other global players.
These range from being black-listed as being aligned with Maduro’s brand of socialist rule threatening our reputation and our integration with the international community to alienating international investors who will take their foreign exchange elsewhere, from jeopardising our pending gas deals with Venezuela if there is a regime change to possible US sanctions against this country, and from negatively impacting our HSF which depends on access to US markets to an avoidance of our ports by international shipping, inter alia.
Standing on principle is laudable, but what if a little discretion in that act of valour were exercised, what if a little political expediency avoiding any stand-off with Goliath were put into place, what if there were a little more pragmatism as against sticking to a fixed principle, would it not spare us the travail outlined above and redound to the benefit of our country and this region as a whole?
As usual I leave that to your better judgment.
DR ERROL BENJAMIN via e-mail