PM’s ill-timed London trip

Prime Minister Dr Rowley - ROGER JACOB
Prime Minister Dr Rowley - ROGER JACOB

DECEMBER has dawned, and there could not be a longer list of pressing matters facing the Government.

Tensions have come to a head between our closest neighbour, Venezuela, and one of our key allies, Guyana.

The long-awaited report of the Paria enquiry, which cost $15.5 million, was delivered to President’s House on Friday.

We hurtle to the end of another year amid high crime.

The findings of a probe into a shocking cyber-security breach of the country’s leading telecommunications provider are pending.

And the deadline for the Cabinet’s promise of Christmas backpay for public servants approaches.

But where is the Prime Minister?

An official statement on Friday announced Dr Rowley had left the country yet again, for meetings in the UK with multinational energy companies. On Monday, he was photographed with Murray Auchincloss, BP’s interim CEO, at that company’s headquarters in London.

Previously, the PM said he would travel this month to deal with Atlantic LNG matters which have, he suggested, come to a fruitful conclusion.

In this day and age, it would be foolhardy not to expect our leaders to travel. We live in a globalised world. International engagements are more important than ever. Their timings are set far in advance; they are often the outcome of months of planning and collaboration. And there are some international events at which we must have a voice or else risk being left out of the international conversation.

Nonetheless, Dr Rowley’s recent withdrawal from COP28, which was the one foreign engagement he actually should have attended, demonstrated the reality that official travel is always ultimately at a leader’s discretion.

One of his stated reasons for not attending the climate conference was cost. But the adjustment of his diary plainly expresses his true priority: the conference was still going on when he met with BP in London on Monday.

This was not Dr Rowley’s first pilgrimage to St James’s Square. He met Bernard Looney, BP’s CEO, last September. Similar meetings occurred in November 2021, March 2020, May 2019, April 2018.

The PM also hosted BP officials here in December 2018 and June 2017. A meeting was convened in Houston, US, in March 2017. Dr Rowley met with William Lin, BP’s chief operating officer for Global Upstream Regions, in October 2018.

The PM must have a good reason for meeting energy-company executives yet again.

However, until he fully lays bare that reason, he exposes his administration to the accusation that it is profoundly out of sync with matters on the ground.

If the PM is planning on returning with a Christmas gift for the nation, it had better be an impressive gift indeed.

Few are in the Christmas spirit. At this perilous moment, they simply cannot afford to be.


"PM’s ill-timed London trip"

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