No obligation to harmonize with CARICOM says Johnson Smith

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith on Tuesday broke her silence on the brewing controversy surrounding United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to the island.

Johnson Smith in a statement issued a few hours prior to Pompeo’s arrival, said that Jamaica was “under no obligation to harmonize policy “with the rest of the region.

“The fact is that since its formation, members have, as is their sovereign right, voted differently and taken differing positions on a variety of issues. Jamaica has always both exercised that right and respected it when exercised by others,” Johnson Smith said.

The minister further explained that, “this week’s US engagements with Caribbean Foreign Ministers are being undertaken largely bilaterally and not within a CARICOM context.

According to Johnson Smith, there is nothing unusual or divisive about such meetings.

“All countries, large and small, have a sovereign right to engage bi-laterally with any other country, beyond any regional or hemispheric arrangements. This happens across the world even in political unions which CARICOM, indisputably, is not,” said Johnson Smith.

The Minister went on to assert that Jamaica would continue to act in a principled manner to ensure that the region remains a “zone of peace”, while engaging with partner countries in advancing our development goals and economic interests.

 “We view the expanded context of these bilateral meetings as a welcome and positive development, since the last visit of a US Secretary of State to Jamaica in 2018,” added Johnson Smith.

Some leaders in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) expressed concerns about Pompeo’s visit, noting that it was an attempt to divided CARICOM, as some members of the regional bloc were not invited to the talks.