The Trump administration on Friday congratulated Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) in their resounding victory in Sept. 3’s general elections.
“The United States congratulates the Jamaican people for their dedication to democracy as demonstrated in the September 3rd general elections,” said US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo in a short State Department statement.
“The United States and Jamaica share a commitment to free and fair elections, regional security and broad-based economic prosperity, including expanded bilateral trade and investment ties,” he added. “Americans and Jamaicans share strong bonds of friendship and shared values.”
Pompeo said the Trump administration “looks forward to continuing to work with Prime Minister Holness on bilateral, regional and global initiatives, as we deepen and strengthen this important relationship.”
In January, Pompeo created controversy when he met in Jamaica with a select group of Caribbean leaders.
Barbados Prime Minister and then Caribbean Community (CARICOM) chairwoman Mia Mottley expressed deep concern about Pompeo’s meeting.
“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,” said Mottley in addressing a ceremony in Bridgetown honoring late Barbados Prime Minister and regionalist, Errol Barrow.
“If some are invited and not all, then it is an attempt to divide the region,” she added.
Several Caribbean leaders had come to Mottley’s defense, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves and his Trinidad and Tobago counterpart Dr. Keith Rowley.
Gonsalves said while the US has a right to invite whoever it wishes for talks, he has “strong support” for Mottley.
“I think that’s the correct position, because it would appear as though you are dividing CARICOM,” Gonsalves told a news conference.
At the same time, the Vincentian leader said, “It is the right of every sovereign country to invite who they want to invite and for those sovereign countries to go.”
“PM Mottley has the full support of the government and the people of Trinidad and Tobago in outlining our principles and vision of Caribbean unity,” Rowley said. “In the expectation of Caribbean unity, the Prime Minister of Barbados speaks for Trinidad and Tobago.”
Pompeo was on a two-day visit to Jamaica after visiting several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
While in Jamaica, the US Secretary of State also participated in a roundtable with the foreign ministers of The Bahamas, Belize, The Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Lucia.
But, in defending the talks in Jamaica, that country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith said that the meeting with some CARICOM countries should not be viewed as divisive.
“There is nothing unusual or divisive about such meetings,” said Johnson Smith in a statement. “All countries, large and small, have a sovereign right to engage bilaterally with any other country beyond any regional or hemispheric arrangements.
“This happens across the world, even in political unions which CARICOM, indisputably, is not,” she added.
On Sept. 3, Holness led his incumbent JLP to its first ever consecutive victory in a general election since 1967, with an emphatic victory that mirrored the win the party achieved in 1980, when it stormed to a 51-9 margin over the People’s National Party (PNP).
Preliminary results show that the JLP, which went into the elections, six months ahead of the fifth anniversary of the 2016 single seat victory, won 50 of the 63 seats in the Parliament, with Holness indicating that the task ahead is not only for the victorious JLP.
“The task ahead of us is for all of us, including the PNP,” he said. “And so tonight, I also appeal to PNP supporters – do not feel dejected, join us in celebrating Jamaica’s victory.”
Holness said that he had received a telephone call from PNP leader Dr Peter Phillips, conceding defeat.
In honoring a pledge he had made of stepping down as PNP leader, if his party loses the general elections, Phillips, 70, on Sept. 4 quit the post.