“Undiplomatic language” by National Security Minister Stuart Young and the partisan noise of politics surrounding the recent visit of Venezuela Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez to Trinidad and Tobago has the potential to damage the country’s continued relationship with the United States.
That’s the view of retired head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas and senior counsel Martin Daly.
Both men yesterday issued a joint statement expressing their “deep concern” about the current controversy between Young and US Ambassador Joseph Mondello over Rodriguez’s visit, which was a direct breach of the Rio Treaty on T&T’s part.
“Many of us say we are a sovereign country and can take our own decisions. That is correct. But the USA too is a sovereign country, and can take its own decisions,” the duo said.
They said one of the decisions taken by the US is to apply sanctions to Venezuela. They added that the US has “also made it clear that it will also apply sanctions to those countries, all equally sovereign, which violate its Venezuela sanctions.”
“Given the political climate in Washington, that is a policy position which cannot be ignored,” both men, considered to be two of T&T luminaries in their fields, said.
The two questioned whether T&T is prepared to face sanctions if they come, especially at this time of economic difficulty. In any event, they said T&T should seek to mend the current situation.
“Can we, in turn, impose sanctions on the USA, as, for example, China can? But if relations between Trinidad and Tobago and the USA are as positive and strong as Government spokespersons (Minister Young among them) say they are, should there not be quiet discussions between the two parties?”
The men said they “strongly recommend that such discussions be initiated with a view to reaching mutually satisfactory solutions.”
The discussion, they say, must respect both T&T’s sovereignty and the foreign policy positions.
During a meeting of Upper House on May 13, Young said during a conversation with Mondello, “there was no raising of the breach of any treaty.”
On Tuesday, however, Mondello issued a rare statement contradicting Young and saying that during a May 6 conversation between the two, he did raise the Rio Treaty and expressed his concern about the visit by Rodriguez and T&T’s obligation to the Rio Treaty.
Young responded to Mondello’s statement later on Tuesday, saying his comments were misconstrued and that he did not say that a breach of the Rio Treaty was not discussed. Rather, Young noted he said the breach of the treaty was not raised, adding he did not believe it was proper to provide the details of the discussion.
Dumas and Daly said they examined Young’s statements both before and after Mondello’s press release.
“We cannot avoid this comment: While Minister Young is pedantically insisting that the Ambassador did not use the word “breach”, if the Ambassador spoke of the “consistency” of the Venezuelan Vice-President’s visit with Trinidad and Tobago’s obligations under the Rio Treaty, what other than a breach could he possibly have meant? Where was the misconstruction?” they asked.
The matter has not been officially addressed since by either Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley or Young.
But Young has taken to his Facebook page to bash the three daily newspapers, saying they were trying to mislead the public by misquoting what he said at the Upper House session.
Dumas and Daly yesterday said the relevance and application of the Rio Treaty to T&T, about which a number of experts have reservations, should now figure prominently in discussions between T&T and the US.
“In order to facilitate the proposed discussions, we further recommend an immediate cessation of the megaphone diplomacy that seems now to be in vogue,” they said.
The two said they have also “taken note” of the recent calls for Young’s dismissal.
“We are indeed disturbed by the recent controversies in which he has placed himself. None of this is good for T&T,” they said.
The comments from the two luminaries came even as the Prime Minister’s deafening silence continued for yet another day.
The last time the country heard from the Prime Minister was on May 16 - that’s seven days ago today, when he announced the second phase of reopening of businesses.
On Wednesday, Rowley posted pictures of himself gardening and released a video of this as well and yesterday he chaired the Cabinet meeting. But there was no press conference and no word from the Office of the Prime Minister as to when Rowley planned to address the country on this issue.
Last Saturday, Rowley was asked about the Rodriguez visit to this country and declined a response, saying that was not the time for the issue to be discussed. He did indicate, however, that it would be dealt with.
Since then the US Ambassador has broken protocol and issued a public rebuke of comments made by Young in the parliament on the breach of the Rio Treaty.
Efforts to contact Rowley yesterday proved unsuccessful and his office could offer no clarification on whether he intended to speak to the issue anytime soon.