Permanent Secretary to blame for Dominica embarrassment

'You can put the blame on me.'

The line is taken from a song by Hip Hop artist Akon, but today, in relation to the confusion that led to this country rejecting Dominica's request to waive OAS fees, it's the position of permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs, Jennifer Daniel.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley today read from a report issued by Daniel, in which she took the blame, admitting that she did not communicate with line-minister, Dennis Moses, prior to instructing the T&T mission in Washington to object to Dominica's request for a fee-waiver.

He also read from a report issued by the minister, saying that he was never asked to give his position on the matter. 

Daniel pointed out that her decision is not in keeping with the usual procedure.

Quoting the report by the permanent secretary, the prime minister read: "I failed to follow the matter to the minister as is standard procedure and as I am accustomed to." 

However, prime minister Dr Keith Rowley has stopped short of taking action against any of the persons involved, and instead has opted to send all reports he has received on the matter, to retired diplomat Christopher Thomas, whose job it now is, to identify how something like this could have happened and how to prevent it from happening again.

"I will take my time in dealing with this," the prime minister told members of the media at today's post-Cabinet media conference.

The prime minister started the news conference by saying he was as shocked and embarrassed as anyone else when he learned of the position taken by Trinidad and Tobago, which was represented by Ambassador Anthony Phillips-Spencer.

He gave a brief on all that T&T had done to support Dominica since it was affected by the hurricane and read from statements made publicly by Ambassadors Penelope Beckles and Phillips-Spencer, supporting Dominica.

So how then did this happen?

The prime minister said that Trinidad and Tobago failed to attend a preparatory meeting at the OAS in Washington, on March 15th, at which member states unanimously agreed to support Dominica's request.

Having not been at that meeting, there was communication between the Washington mission and the ministry in Trinidad, on what position T&T should adopt.

The prime minister said that following discussions back and forth, the permanent secretary then instructed Ambassador Phillips-Spencer to adopt a position that Dominica should instead seek a position of deferred payment instead of the waiving of the fees.

That position was in keeping with a previous meeting in February at another forum, at which Caricom heads denied one nation's request for a fee waiver, partly because those fees would have fallen on other member states. 

Officials at the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs had feared that Dominica's OAS fees would also be distributed across member states.

However, at the meeting that T&T missed on March 15th, it was made clear that the fees would not have been distributed across member states. 

The prime minister is now seeking an answer on why T&T was not represented at the March 15th meeting in Washington.

Having sent the matter to Ambassador Thomas, the prime minister said he would let the facts dictate what actions are to be taken on this matter.

View today's news conference here:

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