She was responding to a statement by CARICOM Chairman, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who had slammed the Trump administration’s move to meet with select Caribbean states in Jamaica, and not the entire regional bloc, as an attempt at divide and rule.
Mottley had declined to dispatch her foreign minister to the meeting as a matter of principle. “And I say so, conscious that principles only mean something when it is inconvenient to stand by them. Conscious that this region must always check itself to ensure that we 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,” Mottley stated.
Johnson Smith said the week’s US engagements with Caribbean foreign ministers are undertaken “largely bilaterally and not within a CARICOM context”.
“There is nothing unusual or divisive about such meetings. All countries, large or small, have a sovereign right to engage bilaterally with any other country, beyond any regional or hemispheric arrangements,” she said.
Johnson Smith said that since the formation of CARICOM, members have, as is their sovereign right, voted independently and taken differing positions on a variety of issues.
“Jamaica has always both exercised that right and respected it when exercised by others,” the minister said, explaining that the Government of Jamaica view the expanded context in relation to bilateral talks with Pompeo as a “welcome and positive development” since the visit of the last US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, in 2018.
The Jamaican Foreign Minister was also bruised by a comment by former Jamaican ambassador Curtis Ward, who, writing in the Gleaner newspaper, warned Prime Minister Andrew Holness against becoming a pawn in Washington’s bid to solicit votes in its diplomatic war with the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
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