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Mottley distances CARICOM from Holness, others

Published:Monday | January 20, 2020 | 12:54 AM
Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados and chairman of CARICOM.
Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados and chairman of CARICOM.

CARICOM Chairman and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has drawn a clear line between herself and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness and other Caribbean leaders planning to meet with United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, criticising the sidelining of the regional bloc as an attempt at divide and rule.

Mottley’s sharp rebuke of her Caribbean ally was followed late yesterday by criticism by Jamaica’s Opposition Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Lisa Hanna, who warned the Holness administration to abide by “previously coordinated decisions taken on Venezuela”, which is expected to be on the agenda of Pompeo’s meeting with Holness and an undisclosed select group.

Hanna cautioned that CARICOM multilateralism should not be “sacrificed on the altar of expediency”.

“We must not follow like lemmings, but display the fortitude of those before us who have made Jamaica and Jamaicans symbols of international integrity and purveyors of the importance of the adherence to international norms,” she said.

Addressing a gala to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the late Barbados prime minister and regional integrationist, Errol W. Barrow, on Saturday night, Mottley revealed that her decision to spurn the invitation to dispatch her foreign minister to the meeting in Kingston on Tuesday was based on principle.

“We don’t look to pick fights. I don’t look to pick fights, but I am conscious that if this country does not stand for something, then it will fall for anything. As chairman of CARICOM, it is impossible for me to agree that my foreign minister should attend a meeting with anyone to which members of CARICOM are not invited. ... It is an attempt to divide this region,” she said.

Jamaica’s Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, said last week that Pompeo’s two-day working visit, January 21-22, was a symbol of Washington’s engagement with the Caribbean.

“We welcome the visit of Secretary Pompeo as a demonstration of the commitment of the United States of America to once more strengthen its engagement with Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. We truly look forward to this opportunity to engage and reinforce our longstanding ties,” she added.

Attempts to contact Johnson Smith for her feedback on Mottley’s riposte were unsuccessful as calls to her mobile rang unanswered. Efforts to reach her communications aide failed as well.

Pompeo will hold talks with Cabinet on the second day of the visit and is expected to give a policy speech on the Caribbean region’s critical importance to the United States and the country’s renewed commitment to closer ties, based on shared values, the ministry said.

Last year, Holness was among four Caribbean leaders – from St Lucia, The Bahamas, and Haiti – who flew to Miami to meet with President Donald Trump, where they discussed the ongoing political situation in Venezuela where Washington was seeking to oust President Nicolás Maduro in favour of Juan Guaidó.

- CANA News contributed to this story