Caribbean deeply concerned about unrest in Libya

Chairman of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister, Dr. Denzil Douglas, has acknowledged that the ongoing unrest in Libya will have consequences for the sub-region.

Douglas, who was among 13 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders meeting in Grenada for their annual inter-sessional summit, said the sub-region was working with Libya of strengthening ties with the African Union.

“In fact, we have been discussing with the President [Muammar al Gaddafi] the opportunity to have the African Diaspora in the Caribbean meet with the African Union leaders sometime later this year in North Africa,”

“It could have been in Libya, and so we are concerned that what is happening can set back our agenda,” he added.

Douglas said that the loss of lives is of concern to the region, adding “we believe that, in situations where people are seeking for greater democracy, they should be allowed to do that; and so, we want to use this opportunity to call on the people of Libya, especially to settle their differences and bring to an end the continued loss of lives and bloodshed there”.

Libyans have taken to the streets in a bid to force the Gaddafi government out of office.

Libya has become the third African country in as many weeks in which its citizens have taken to the streets calling on their leaders to step down and to bring democratic rule to the countries. Egypt and Tunisia are the other countries where the leaders have been forced into exile.

Last year, Libya announced plans to establish a number of diplomatic and investment facilities in the Eastern Caribbean.

It sent a team to the sub-region for discussions on the location of the Libyan Investment Company. It was later disclosed that St. Kitts had been selected as the Eastern Caribbean home of the Libyan Investment Bank.

Dr. Douglas said that Libya “had been working closely with the Caribbean governments” and had established diplomatic relationships with the North African country.

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar said Port-of-Spain is “worried” at the unfolding situation in Libya.

“Anytime there is unrest in any part of the world, it will impact upon us as well,” she said.

St Lucia’s Prime Minister Stephenson King said while he supports the march towards democracy in Libya, his government is not considering severing diplomatic relations with that country.

“We have to act responsibly. We need to monitor to see what is happening and, therefore, St. Lucia will certainly, if the need arises, give consideration to its current relationship probably to suspend and later to have a comprehensive review,” he said during the annual CARICOM inter-sessional summit in Grenada.

But King warned: “It is still early in the game.”

In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, officials are defending their decision to accept aid from Libya at a time when other governments around the world are denouncing that country’s bloody crackdown on protests.

Opposition leader Arnhim Eustace said the Libyan aid is “blood money”, criticizing the Ralph Gonsalves’ administration for taking a US $250,000 check delivered by a Libyan official last week. Dr. Gonsalves and Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Douglas Slater did not attend the hand-over ceremony.

Housing and Land Development Corporation general manager Maurice Slater said the money will help rebuild homes damaged during last year’s hurricane season.

The United States last week suspended embassy operations in Libya and was moving forward with unilateral sanctions against the government.

Britain and France had planned to present a draft proposal for sanctions against Libyan leaders at the U.N. Security Council. A vote was planned for this week.

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