David Abdulah, Leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), is blaming the People Partnership Government’s “inexperience” in international affairs for a vote at the Organisation of the American States (OAS) on Friday where T&T distanced itself from Caricom and the rest of Latin America. “We have an inexperienced consul in Washington DC. This is another example where you must put an experienced career diplomat,” Abdulah told the T&T Guardian yesterday. Up to press time, calls and messages to the phone of Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran’s went unanswered. The OAS on Friday called a meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers for August 24 to discuss the standoff sparked when Ecuador gave asylum to WikiLeaks founder and journalist, Julian Assange. Twenty-three countries in Latin America and the Caribbean voted for the resolution proposed by Ecuador to convene the meeting at its Washington headquarters to discuss Ecuador’s standoff with Britain over Assange. The only country in Caricom and Latin America to vote against the resolution was T&T. The United States, Canada and T&T voted no, five countries abstained and three were absent. The vote was taken at emergency talks to discuss the case of Assange, a 41-year-old Australian national, who took refuge at Ecuador's embassy in London on June 19 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sexual misconduct.
The US envoy to the OAS, Carmen Lomellin, said a meeting of OAS Foreign Ministers "would be unhelpful and harmful to the OAS' reputation as an institution." Ecuador wants the body to discuss what it says was a threat by Britain to storm its embassy by force to take Assange into custody. Assange on Thursday, triggered a diplomatic row between Ecuador and London, when Britain angrily insisted it would move to extradite him. In a ten-minute address to the international media Sunday from the balcony of Ecuador’s Embassy in London, a defiant Assange told the American Government to “stop the witch-hunt” and to stop “pursuing journalists.” Abdulah said normally T&T votes with Caricom on important international matters at the OAS and other international bodies as the region was small and wondered why the Government took that decision that has separated it from the rest of Caricom. “On major international matters T&T and other Caricom states vote together. We are only influential when we vote together. My concern is why T&T’s Government is moving away from the rest of Caricom,” he said.
He also said that countries like Brazil in Latin America are emerging global powers and that T&T would do well by building relations with these countries in Latin America. He added that the People’s Partnership in its 2010 election manifesto did say once elected they would set up a parliamentary committee on foreign affairs but it had not happened. “Unfortunately the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs has never been activated. This is just another reason why we broke with them,” he said. Referring to the recent case of Therese Baptiste-Cornelis who was recalled as Ambassador to the United Nations because of a embarrassing speech she made, Abdulah said the People’s Partnership Government must be careful about the type of people who are chosen for these “high-powered” positions. “The appointment to Geneva is just another example of the choices that they make. These are high-powered, diplomatic positions and you must have experienced people,” he said. He said the People’s Partnership’s foreign policy was an example of their entire governance style. “This Government is only making mistake after mistake,” he added.