Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has warned of the attempt to divide the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping as some regional leaders get ready to meet with United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Tuesday.
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 said that she is 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 in 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.
Earlier this week, Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith said Pompeo’s two-day working visit, which begins on January 21, is a commitment to strengthen relations 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.
Pompeo will hold talks with Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness and senior members of his 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, interests and economic prosperity, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade said.
Both the Jamaica Gleaner and the Observer newspaper, quoting sources, said that Pompeo is also due to meet with several Caribbean leaders.
But a CARICOM source told the Caribbean Media Corporation that the regional grouping had not been formally invited to participate in the discussions during Pompeo’s visit.
Last year, Holness was among four Caribbean leaders – St. Lucia, the Bahamas and Haiti – who flew to Miami to meet with US President Donald Trump where they discussed the ongoing political situation in Venezuela where Washington is seeking to remove President Nicolas Maduro in favour of opposition leader Juan Guaido.
CARICOM leaders at their last summit in St Lucia last July reiterated their position of non-interference and non-intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela.
Mottley told the gala that she was 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 Barbados 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 cheek itself to ensure that we do not become the pawns of others, the satellites of others, but that we keep every most and 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,” she added.
The CARICOM chairman said that the sense of commitment to principle is what inspires the region to this position.
“And therefore, it didn’t take a lot of thought as to what our decision should be because this country does not pretend to be what it is not and does not pretend to have that which it doesn’t. But it does aspire to be sincere and to be correct and to be moral and to be principled.”
She told the audience that the expression delivered to the US president at that time “who offered to pay our dues to join the Organization of American States when 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,” she told the gala.