Barbados PM says US seeking to divide region

Mia Motley

BARBADOS Prime Minister and Caribbean Community (Caricom) Chair Mia Mottley, in a stinging rebuke of the Donald Trump Administration, says her Government will not participate in upcoming multilateral round table discussion between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and selected Caribbean leaders.

The meeting, she said, serves to divide the region.

“I am conscious that in the next week, questions will be asked as to whether the Barbados foreign minister happened to be missing in a meeting in Kingston, Jamaica that will take place on Tuesday. 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. If some are invited and not all, then it is an attempt to divide this region,” Mottley said while speaking at a gala to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Errol Barrow last Saturday.

It was learned that at least one Caricom country — St Vincent and the Grenadines — has been excluded from the meeting where discussions about embattled South American country Venezuela are expected to take place.

Last March, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves described a meeting between United States President Donald Trump and some Caribbean leaders as “troubling”.

While speaking to reporters in Barbados at the time, Gonsalves noted that there was no true representation of Caricom as the current chairman of the regional body, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis Dr Timothy Harris, was not invited to the meeting.

Gonsalves had also pointed out that absent, too, were members of the Caricom Advisory Committee, including himself, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

This time foreign ministers from St Kitts, Barbados, Trinidad and St Lucia were invited to Tuesday’s meeting.

“I am conscious that when Errol Barrow stood and remarked that ‘we shall be friends of all and satellites of none’, little did he know that that statement would be embraced by every single prime minister of governments that succeeded him. It is as valid today, perhaps even more so than it was at the time of its initial delivery.

“And I say so, conscious that principles only mean something when it is inconvenient to stand by them. Conscious that this region must always check itself to ensure that we not become the pawns of others, the satellites of others, but that we keep uppermost in our minds what we must do for our people without simply becoming pawns on a chessboard for others to be able to benefit from,” Mottley stated.

The Barbados PM said the decision to not participate in the multilateral discussions is grounded in principle.

“Barbados first, as expressed by both Grantley Adams and Errol Barrow, has come to mean for us that Barbados must stand for something.

“And I give thanks that that expression of leadership to that person who first gave us the right to vote, then that person who gave us the right to independence, has been followed for the most part by this country and its leaders.

“Similarly, the understanding that we shall not loiter on colonial premises or loiter on any premises where we are not wanted, continues to be as relevant today as it was then.

“The expression delivered to the president of the United States of America, who offered to pay our dues to join the Organization of American States when Mr Barrow politely refused and said, ‘in our part of the world where I come from, if you cannot afford the dues, you do not join the club’. That is the Barbados first to which I speak,” said Mottley.

The US State Department said Pompeo is expected to arrive first in San Jose, Costa Rica, where he will meet with President Carlos Alvarado and visit the Joint Operations Center, which facilitates regional law enforcement cooperation.

Costa Rica, an important partner of the United States, the State Department said, supports democracy and the rule of law throughout the hemisphere, including in Nicaragua and Venezuela.

He is expected to arrive in Kingston hours later. While in Jamaica, he will meet with Prime Minister Andrew Holness, conduct a multilateral round table discussion with Caribbean leaders, and deliver remarks on US – Caribbean relations.