Give the Government its due
The bold assertions by the minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, A.J. Nicholson, in his speech to the Senate last Friday have given us a basis to set his agenda for the remainder of his tenure. His assertions have also given us further basis to demand action from him and his team at the ministry to cure an ill that he has campaigned against since taking office in January 2012.
For those who came in late, Senator Nicholson gave a 13-page statement in the Upper House last week centred on that historic Obama visit and the no less significant Summit of the Americas in Panama City.
Senator Nicholson noted, to the unbridled support of his government colleagues and a stony, slightly begrudging silence from those on the Opposition benches, that the Obama visit marked the completion of the journey embarked upon by the Simpson Miller administration to repair the damage wrought on the nation's reputation during the four years of the previous Jamaica Labour Party Government.
According to Senator Nicholson, the Obama visit has provided irrefutable evidence that in just three short years of this People's National Party (PNP) Government, the country has retaken its hard-won place as a respected voice on the international stage. He toasted that in that time, Jamaica has resumed its rightful place as a leader in international relations and foreign policy. And he delivered a coup de gr‚ce of sorts, noting that under Portia's rule, in just three short years, the country has restored that most vital of commodities - trust.
Unlike Tufton, Tavares-Finson, Montague et al, who bristled at the events and tailored facts used by Senator Nicholson to buttress his points, I took no umbrage with what he said. For those statements must surely mean that the country is now in a position to make a massive impact in the international arena by agitating for those policy changes that are in its own best interest and the shared interest of fellow small-island developing states.
Speaking in the Senate in late March 2013, Minister Nicholson warned and lamented how Jamaica's fight against HIV/AIDS could be impacted by the movement of the yardstick by which multilateral donors provide development aid. Speaking then, during the State of the Nation debate, he argued that Jamaica's upgraded income profile could see the country being exempt from that list of countries eligible to receive support from the World Global Fund and other such agencies.
He warned that the PNP administration was becoming increasingly concerned that Jamaica's removal from the list of recipient countries could see a reversal in the gains made against HIV/AIDS and in the treatment of some non-communicable diseases. He told his colleagues that the Government, in concert with other small-island developing states, would examine ways in which it could raise this very serious issue on the international stage and prevail upon those who hold the purse strings to crucial development assistance.
WORTHY OF HELP
So, now that our reputation as a leader in international and diplomatic affairs has been restored, it's necessary to expect, nay, demand, that the minister make that important breakthrough that will place us on the list of countries worthy of development assistance across various areas, especially health. The minister was unequivocal as he crowed in the Parliament: Jamaica is back. So, now that we have reclaimed our status, not as foreign-policy passenger, but as international relations leader, there should be no impediment to the minister's efforts to sway the world's diplomats and funding agencies to see things the Jamaica way.
It's obvious that one plus one doesn't always equal two in the world of foreign relations, but if a nation that's a world leader, like Minister Nicholson says Jamaica is, cannot have its agenda supported by those with aid to give, what hope is there for those countries who are mere acolytes behind a priest?
If A.J. Nicholson is to be believed, he, by his own admission, is playing a very strong hand of cards at the gambling table, having given poor Anthony Hylton the dice to play the craps game. The nation should now brace to embrace him as he chalks up a string of foreign-policy successes before the political cycle comes to an end.