Thu | Mar 21, 2019

Int’l partners understand move on Petrojam shares, says Gov’t

Published:Saturday | February 23, 2019 | 12:20 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Kamina Johnson Smith, minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade.

Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith has said that Jamaica’s bilateral and development partners have told the Andrew Holness administration that they “understand” that the decision to forcibly retake Venezuela’s stake in Petrojam does not represent a shift in Jamaica’s free market policy or support for property rights.

“They have expressed that to us clearly,” Johnson Smith said yesterday, although she did not name the partners.

The disclosure comes amid suggestions by the parliamentary Opposition that the decision to use legislation to acquire the shares was politically motivated and that it would send a bad signal to the international community.

Lisa Hanna, opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs, was caustic in her criticisms, suggesting that the Jamaican Government was acting at the behest of other nations.

“We must never abandon our friends or to be seen, under any circumstances, to do the bidding for others to enforce their dominion on another sovereign nation,” Hanna said in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

“We on this side want to see a brighter future for that country, which has been a friend in very, very difficult times. We cannot just pack up and walk away from them now because some other government pressures us to do so,” she added.

But Johnson Smith insisted that the acquisition of Venezuela’s shares in Petrojam was not a political issue for the Government.

“The Government is focused on Jamaica’s economic stability and our energy security, which are necessary for the well-being of Jamaicans,” said Johnson Smith, who was speaking during the debate in the Senate on the proposed legislation being enacted to allow the Government to acquire the 49 per cent shares held in Petrojam by Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.

“We cannot be sidetracked by assertions of political intrigue and unmeritorious allegations of bending the knee to other states,” she added.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com