ST. VINCENT: – Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar did not apologise for her hurricane aid with string comments, her Vincentians counterpart Dr Ralph Gonsalves said on Friday, Nov. 18.
Gonsalves told reporters that Persad-Bissessar might be upset by media reports that she apologised for saying that her country must benefit from any aid it gives to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations affected by Hurricane Tomas at the end of Oct.
He made the observation even as he told reporters in Kingstown that he did not comment when Persad-Bissessar made the statements in early Nov. and he was also not going to comment on her apology.
“What I can say to you, she had received a letter from me. I’m not going to say what are the contents of that letter,” he told reporters.
“We will have to look at ways in which we would be able to assist. But you would recall my comments earlier this year, when I said there must some way in which Trinidad and Tobago would also benefit … then we may be able to use Trinidad and Tobago builders and companies, so that whatever money or assistance is given, redounds back in some measure to the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” Persad-Bissessar told reporters in Port-of-Spain on Nov. 1.
She was speaking days after the hurricane left substantial damages to housing and other infrastructure and devastated banana cultivation in St. Vincent and St. Lucia.
The comment by Persad-Bissessar, who came to office earlier this year, was extensively discussed across the region and sparked several campaigns calling for a boycott of Trinidadian products.
The statements also came on the heels of her warning to CARICOM heads of government meeting in July that oil-rich Port-of-Spain could no longer be regarded at the region’s “ATM card”.
“I do apologise for the statements that have been taken in this regard. I remain committed to regional integration and to our CARICOM brothers and sisters,” Persad-Bissessar said in Jamaica last week of her comments after the hurricane.
“The way I envisioned it is that, I can only give from my home, I think St Lucia Prime Minister Stephenson King put it in these words and I appreciate, when he said what Kamla is saying…that we don’t expect her to go out and shop for us and so she would give us goods and supplies out of Trinidad and Tobago, that is what I meant really. It is most unfortunate the way my comments have been received and I do apologise for that,” she further said.
Gonsalves did not consider Persad-Bissessar comments in Jamaica last week and apology.
“But, I have seen in the newspaper saying that she has apologized. I don’t believe that the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago would be pleased with that characterisation because it would be to say something which she may not have said,” Gonsalves said.
“She said she didn’t say what she said in the first place — wrong context and so on. I am not commenting on that. She said that she is sorry for how people had received her statement so that there is an apology about our lack of understanding about her statement,” Gonsalves said, emphasising the word “received”.
“It is not an apology about her statement. I am not commenting on the apology or not the apology. I am just commenting on what I read. And I think she would be very upset if people go about saying that she apologised for it because I don’t think she would consider that to be the case. But she might leave it like that and I [will] leave it like that too,” he added.
Sir Louis Straker, the Minister of Foreign Affair in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, had described Persad-Bissessar’s comments as “unfortunate … demeaning … insulting”.
“It show great insensitivity and it is insulting to Vincentians and Trinidadians. I am very disappointed by the statement made by the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and feel very strongly that she needs to reconsider it, reflect on it and see the damage that was done to the image of her country throughout the region and the world, and would want to offer an apology for what she has said,” Sir Louis had said.