PM: Opposition should ‘shut up’ on Guyana-Venezuela issue

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Kamla Persad-Bissessar –

The Prime Minister says the opposition should “shut up” on issues of national foreign policy, as its interventions are making things worse.

Dr Rowley spoke at a press conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s on Friday.

He was commenting on a television interview on TV6 with opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who weighed in on the dispute between Guyana and Venezuela over Guyana’s Essequibo region.

Persad-Bissessar suggested Trinidad and Tobago should offer to act as a mediator in talks between the two.

“It is very concerning to me that our opposition in TT seems to make a career of undermining our national foreign policy, our Caricom policy. I don’t know why they do it, but they do it every time,” Rowley said.

He said any suggestion of mediation was misguided, as it went against Guyana’s position.

“The people of Guyana are firm in their position…Guyana does not encourage and does not require its problem to be dealt with by any mediation in Venezuela at this time.

“Guyana places its store and its fortune in the adjudication of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). That is Guyana’s position.

“Venezuela’s position is they do that recognise that court.

“So we have to find some other avenue, or negotiations and dialogue will have to evolve.”

Rowley added that mediation only works if both parties are willing to engage.

“One person cannot mediate something against somebody else.

“I think the opposition should know that and should shut up, because all those interventions are doing is worsening the situation for the people of Guyana. If we say we’re supporting Guyana, we can’t be supporting them verbally and undermining what they believe is their best approach.”

Rowley also dismissed concerns about doing business with Venezuela amid the current dispute.

TT and Venezuela are working together to develop an offshore natural gas field which sits on the maritime border between the two countries.

Asked if he believed he is able to trust Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro to keep his end of the deal, Rowley said TT will continue to “maintain good, honest and direct relationships” with all its neighbours, including Venezuela.

“If you look at the world, you will see many people conducting business with people who they probably wouldn’t go to church with or wouldn’t marry their daughter,” he said.

He added TT’s approach, regardless of the situation, is to preserve its image as “an honest broker” and “follow the principles from which we have anchored ourselves since independence.

“Difficulties will arise and difficulties will be dealt with. We are not going to be stoking any fire, but we also will ensure that we take the position to all our partners and neighbours that this region is better off (as) and should always be a zone of peace.”