Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr, The Hon. Keith Rowley, on Monday said that his country’s continued commitment to CARICOM has precipitated the refocusing of the ministry with responsibility for foreign policy, to the Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs.
Delivering his maiden address to the Conference at the opening of the 37th Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government on 4 July 2016, at the National Cultural Centre in Georgetown, Guyana, he said that even before he took office, cognizance was taken of the need to accord special priority to the Caribbean Community . With this mind, his government paid particular attention to enhancing Trinidad’s relationship with the Community.
In pledging to continue the legacy of former Trinidadian Prime Minister, the late Patrick Manning, whom he described as “a Caribbean man who was committed to excellence and to the Caribbean Community,” Mr Rowley said his government had agreed to reopen a High Commission in Barbados. That, along with its mission in Jamaica, will ensure that Trinidad and Tobago had bilateral accreditation to all CARICOM Member States and an Ambassador to CARICOM.
As lead Head of Government with responsibility for crime and security in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet, he also signalled his government’s intention to “take an active role in all matters pertaining to regional security.”
The sustainable development of our Community depends on the safety and security of our citizens. It is the foundation of our collective future and prosperity,” he stated adding, “Too much of our economy; too much of our well-being depends on security,” for focused attention not to be given to it.
We must take ownership of the opportunities and challenges facing the Community and view them as critical matters to be addressed by the Community as a whole,” the Trinidadian Prime Minister stated, urging his colleague Heads to put the Single Market and Economy (CSME) back on the “active agenda” their deliberations.
Our Community can list significant achievements, both as a regional grouping and as constituent members. As Member States, we customarily come to the aid of those facing distress. In the wake of tropical storm Erika, an all too prominent example of the vulnerability of small island states to natural disasters, the convening of the Meeting is a good example of the spirit of generosity that permeates the Caribbean family.
In our long history, we have united against apartheid in South African, we have been resolute in our position on the economic embargo against Cuba. As a Region, we were able to negotiate, to our citizens’ benefit, successful trade agreements. We united and have brought the issue of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases to the international stage… Today we face, among other things, new trials of graduation, correspondent banking and the unfair labelling of some of our countries as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, which we have endeavoured to face with a collective stance. If our past trajectory is a good determinant of the outcome of these challenges, then there is light on the horizons,” the Trinidadian Prime Minister stated.
He noted that while CARICOM had made “important strides” that had impacted the lives of its citizens, it had admittedly faced challenging times, some of which were “unforced challenges” of its own.
(one) of our weaknesses is the unwillingness to make certain decisions,” he said, adding, to a resounding applause that leadership was “not about popularity, but about leading and making tough decisions.”
Mr. Rowley, one of the newest members of the Conference, acknowledged “the honour” of delivering his inaugural address on the day that coincided with the 43rd Anniversary of the signing of the original Treaty of Chaguramas on 4 July, 1973, in Trinidad and Tobago. The efforts at aligning the Meeting to coincide with that day was testament to the “collective acknowledgement of the importance of anchoring deliberations” within the context of the integration movement’s historic declaration, he added.
He noted Trinidad and Tobago’s “deep appreciation” for those who sent messages of condolences on the passing on the late Patrick Manning.
His passing represents a tremendous loss not only for the people of Trinidad and Tobago, but for the entire Caribbean. It was under the stewardship of Mr. Manning that the implementation of initiatives such as the CARICOM Petroleum Stabilisation Fund, The CARICOM implementation agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) were realised,” he reminded his audience.
The Manning initiative for Grenada, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, reflected his dedication to strive for a stronger and more integrated Community. He was adamant in forging linkages with Latin America and supportive of the Time for Action blue print that called for an Association of Caribbean States which held its first summit in Port of Spain during Mr Manning’s tenure.
Mr. Manning will be remembered as a visionary, a patriot, and a Caribbean man who was committed to excellence and to the Caribbean Community,” Mr. Rowley said.