Former Jamaica Prime Minister, Percival Noel James Patterson has scolded four colleague leaders of Caribbean nations including the current head of his island for breaking a CARICOM pact of joint foreign policy, and acceding to US President Donald Trump’s wishes.
“We live in our own Caribbean space not in anybody else’s backyard,” said the 84-year-old who retired as prime minister in 2006 after leading Jamaica for 14 years and long before then featuring prominently in the affairs of CARICOM.
His backhand was aimed at present prime ministers of Jamaica, Andrew Holness; St. Lucia, Allan Chastenet; The Bahamas’, Hubert Minnis; and Haiti’s President, Jovenel Moise, who along with the leader of the Dominica Republic, Danilo Medina met Trump at his Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, resort in March and voiced their support for the US’ desire for regime change in Venezuela.
While in Barbados a week ago to launch his latest book, ‘My Political Journey’, Patterson hit out at Holness, Chastenet, Minnis and Moise who are leaders of countries within the 15-member CARICOM grouping, which in an apparent rebuttal of US wishes, had in January agreed on non-interference in Venezuela affairs that “can only be resolved peacefully through meaningful dialogue and diplomacy.”
“CARICOM leaders arrived at a common position consistent with the purposes of the Treaty [of Chaguaramas] that repudiated external intervention in Venezuela’s internal affairs.
“We expect all our 14 leaders to act in accordance with that decision and not to veer off in support who have a contrary view within the halls of the OAS or the corridors of Mar-a-Lago,” the former prime minister said to loud applause of the audience that included Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley.
On the eve of that Mar-a-Lago meeting, Mottley had warned against CARICOM leaders falling for attempts to divide the grouping.
Patterson referred to 14 CARICOM leaders because the 15th is Montserrat that remains a British Overseas Territory and does not craft its own foreign policy.
“The position we take should be determined by us in accordance with our own Caribbean enlightened self-interest not by remnants of hegemonic power or the Monroe Doctrine which the Caribbean abandoned many years ago,” said the octogenarian who was as a serving minister in a Jamaica government helped craft the original Treaty of Chaguaramas that was proclaimed in 1973.
“I regard the pursuit of a common foreign policy as fundamental,” he said, adding, “It wasn’t put in the Chaguaramas Treaty by accident. It was because we recognise this as vital for us small states of limited means and might”.
CARICOM has also been showing division at the Organisation of American States meetings in a series of votes this year on what Patterson called ‘the current Venezuela imbroglio’ with St. Lucia, Jamaica, Haiti and the Bahamas favouring US-influenced resolutions, some voting against, a few abstaining and others absenting themselves from the meetings of that 34-country strong group.
“We at the OAS as 14 nations strong. We have the voting power. Once we assert it as a single block to protect and safeguard our sovereign control the Caribbean will prevail,” Patterson pointed out.