by Oscar Ramjeet:
Kamla Persad Bissessar, the new prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago definitely stole the show at the recently concluded summit of CARICOM Heads of State at Montego Bay, Jamaica, not only for her nimble dance moves, and calypso relics, but for her tough, no nonsense talk, and sympathy shown to the unfortunate abandoned, mental and AIDS children at the "Mustard Seed"
The 58-year-old attorney, who spent 14 years of her life in Jamaica as a student and teacher, said that she was a Caribbean woman, but made it quite clear she would not be dishing out money to assist regional countries as was done by her predecessor, Patrick Manning. Issuing the Jamaican politicos with a stern warning, "Move from mi stall, unna think is a ATM machine dis."
Press reports from Kingston state that Kamla, who went on her first tour as prime minister, quickly became the darling of the region by singing and dancing at the "Jamaica night" party, when she swept into the dance floor immediately after her arrival and, minutes after, she grabbed the microphone and sang the lyrics of "One Love", the Bob Marley anthem that had formed part of her campaign repertoire for the May 24 elections.
However, after pointing out the constraints on the economy at home, she made it quite clear at the Summit that the twin island republic will no longer carry the bag with the goodies, but would rather seek relationships with her Caribbean partners that "pull their weight" rather than those who seek handouts.
She told her colleagues that she will withdraw her country's funding for several regional programmes, which include patrol and surveillance in the region to develop stronger and more effective countermeasures to the incursions of the drug trade. She also told businessmen at a luncheon that she would "find amicable solutions" to the issues between business operating in both countries.
She urged Jamaican and Trinidad and Tobago's business leaders to participate in a three-pronged effort to drive innovative improvements, deepen alliances between each nation's business communities and to explore more meaningful partnerships.
The former attorney general also said that there was need to join forces to impact in a sustainable way on the international scenario and added, “So let us not in some ways concentrate on our differences and engage in warfare in the region."
The Guardian newspaper, in an editorial on Sunday, stated, "It is incumbent on the Prime Minister and her Trade Minister to ensure that there is adequate follow through on her promises to defuse the source of those differences and review the complaints of Jamaican manufacturers and exporters in the best interests of developing strong regional trade partners."
Persad Bissesssar made it clear at the Summit that Trinidad and Tobago would be retiring from its role as Caribbean financial godfather in favour of regimes that engaged more co-operative regional efforts at driving the many initiatives of CARICOM that have languished over the years.
But former Caribbean diplomat, business consultant and regional commentator, Sir Ronald Sanders, took issue with Kamla for her ATM machine utterance, contending that "such statements would not endear Trinidad and Tobago to the rest of the CARICOM countries, nor would it encourage citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to regard other CARICOM citizens with anything but contempt."
In fact, Sir Ronald went further to state, "In reality, the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago and other CARICOM countries, particularly the small nations of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is far more beneficial than is conveyed by the analogy of the ‘ATM machine’. Other CARICOM countries are a lucrative protected market for Trinidad and Tobago manufactured products and financial services under CARICOM Treaty. Were it not for the membership of CARICOM, those countries could purchase most of what they buy from Trinidad and Tobago at cheaper prices elsewhere in the world."
July 12, 2010