Reginald Dumas, a former ambassador and head of the public service, and Senior Counsel Martin Daly have weighed in on the controversy over a recent visit by Venezuela’s vice president to Trinidad and Tobago and its bearing on relations between this country and the United States.
In a joint statement on Thursday, both men said they were “deeply concerned” by the controversies bearing on relations between TT and the US, which have “the potential gravely to damage our country.”
They also said they have taken note of the calls for the resignation or dismissal of National Security Minister Stuart Young and were also “deeply disturbed by the recent controversies in which he has placed himself.”
Young reportedly displeased Barbados by referring to a neighbouring country allowing itself to be a jumping-off point for TT citizens wishing to return home despite the country's borders being closed because of the covid19 pandemic.
“None of this is good for TT,” said Dumas and Daly, adding that they have examined the minister’s statements and that of US Ambassador Joseph Mondello.
Young and Mondello have given varying accounts of talks between them and whether Mondello had raised the question of TT's allowing Rodriguez's visit being inconsistent with the Rio Treaty.
“We cannot avoid this comment: While Minister Young is pedantically insisting that the ambassador did not use the word 'breach,' if the ambassador spoke of the 'consistency' of the Venezuelan Vice-President’s visit with TT’s obligations under the Rio Treaty, what other than a breach could he possibly have meant? Where was the misconstruction?” they asked.
In their joint statement, both men also said, “We respectfully, but firmly, believe that there are several considerations, which require sober assessment, way above the incessant noise of partisan party politics and the undiplomatic language of the Minister of National Security, Stuart Young MP.”
They agreed with comments that TT is a sovereign country “and can make our own decisions.”
However, they added, “But the USA too is a sovereign country, and can take its own decisions.
“It has been applying sanctions to Venezuela and has made it clear that it will also apply sanctions to those countries, all equally sovereign, which violate its Venezuela sanctions.
“Given the political climate in Washington, that is a policy position which cannot be ignored.”
They questioned whether TT was prepared to face sanctions, “especially at this time of economic difficulty.”
“Can we, in turn, impose sanctions on the USA, as, for example, China can? But if relations between TT and the USA are as positive and strong as government spokespersons (Minister Young among them) say they are, should there not be quiet discussions between the two parties?” they asked.
The two men recommended that such discussions should be initiated “with a view to reaching mutually satisfactory solutions, which respect our sovereignty and our foreign policy positions.”
They also suggested discussions, on a without-prejudice basis, on the relevance and application of the Rio Treaty to TT, “about which a number of experts have reservations, (and which) should figure prominently in such discussions.”
“In order to facilitate the proposed discussions, we further recommend an immediate cessation of the megaphone diplomacy that seems now to be in vogue,” they said.