Trinidad and Tobago blames “public servant” for fiasco at OAS meeting


The Trinidad and Tobago government Thursday sought to distance itself from the controversy that has erupted after it blanked support for hurricane-ravaged Dominica that was seeking to get a waiver on its assessed quota contribution to the Organization of American States (OAS) for the 2018-2019 period.

“A suggestion by a public servant at an OAS meeting that Dominica’s dues not be collected at this time but be deferred to some future time in no way reflects any change in the demonstrated concern of Trinidad and Tobago for the welfare of the people of Dominica,” a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Dominica hurricane damageIt noted that it regretted the “misrepresentation of the position of Trinidad and Tobago offered by a public official of Trinidad and Tobago” during the Special Meeting of the Permanent Council of the OAS held in Washington earlier this month. It said that an investigation has since been launched into the matter.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Ambassador to the OAS, Anthony Phillip Spencer, said despite the “goodwill” expressed by the other delegations, including those from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), his country would not support the waiver, adding that Port of Spain would instead consider supporting either the “deferral of payments of contributions by member states and where possible the implementation of a payment plan”.

Spencer told the meeting that while “Trinidad and Tobago would like to reiterate solidarity with all member states that have been …impacted by Hurricanes Irma, Maria and the other devastating storms…in the last hurricane season”, his country is aware of the situation having been among the early responders to Dominica’s pleas for assistance.

“Trinidad and Tobago has had itself to explicitly express a position that it is unable to facilitate any increase in its own assessed contributions. Given the explanations provided by the chair of the CAP, this delegation must advice distinguished colleagues that at other multilateral fora in the hemisphere, Trinidad and Tobago has had to explicitly state its concerns for the overall impact of adjustments in the established arrangements for payment of quota contributions.

“In doing so Trinidad and Tobago has offered the proposal, the opportunity, the option for consideration of the deferral of payments of contributions by member states and where possible the implementation of a payment plan, subject to review, of course given that you never know how long adjustment and capacity to return to the normal arrangements…,” Spencer said.

But in the statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “an investigation into the briefing arrangements of the public official and the circumstances involved in the discussion at the OAS is underway”.

It promised that a “report, as requested, would be made available to the Honourable Prime Minister (Dr. Keith Rowley).

“Trinidad and Tobago’s solidarity with the people of Dominica is without question. The actions, cooperation – be it technical, financial or diplomatic – with Dominica and advocacy overtime, most recently in the advent and aftermath of hurricanes, Erika and Maria attest to the strong and abiding relationship between Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the “position presented at the OAS is not aligned with the actions, policy or orientation of Trinidad and Tobago towards Dominica.

“The unswerving commitment of Trinidad and Tobago is that the fraternal bond between CARICOM member states and peoples of the Caribbean continue to be further strengthened.”

Dominica is recovering from the destruction caused by the passage of Hurricane Maria on September 18 last year and the island had gone to the OAS meeting here last week urging member countries to approve of the waiver estimated at

The island’s alternate representative to the hemispheric body, Judith-Anne Rolle, told the Special Meeting of the Permanent Council on March 23 that the post disaster assessment situation in Dominica undertaken in collaboration with a number of regional and international organisations, including the World Bank and the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) had painted a very dismal picture of the island.

“The post-disaster needs assessment also concluded that Hurricane Maria resulted in total damages of US$931 million and losses of US$382 million to the productive, social, infrastructure and cross-cutting sectors amounting to 226 per cent of the GDP9 gross domestic product) of 2016, ” she told the meeting.

She said the cost associated with the reconstruction of the country had been estimated at more than US$1.3 billion, recalling the words of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit that ‘we have lost all that money can buy…and we would need help of all kinds”.

The diplomat said that every sector of the Dominican economy had been impacted by the hurricane, a category 5 storm with the greatest loss being recorded within the agricultural sector at 33 per cent, followed by the tourism sector at 19 per cent.

She said that in assessing its international obligations, Dominica has identified as ‘a mitigating measure waiver facilities of its annual contributions over a specified period to address its commitment to international organisations.

“It is in this regard that we have forwarded a request for a full waiver of quota contributions assessed the Commonwealth of Dominica for the years 2018 and 2019 for consideration and approval of this Council.

“Let me on behalf of the government of the Commonwealth of Dominica record our profound appreciation to all member states for their continued and invaluable support to the Commonwealth of Dominica as we advance recovery efforts in our homeland,” she told the OAS meeting.

In its statement, the Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs said it “wishes to reiterate its unwavering support for Dominica, tangibly demonstrated in Trinidad and Tobago’s recent aid and expressions of empathy to that country”.

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