‘IT’S ALL GOOD’: Trini PM dismisses news of a rift with Barbados

Trinidad and Tobago’s National Security Minister Stuart Young.

The Trinidad and Tobago government Saturday maintained that its relationship with Barbados “is as good as it has ever been” as it downplayed a potential rift between the two Caribbean Community (CARICOM) neighbours.

Bridgetown on Friday issued a statement in which it said that it was “deeply disturbed” by a jab made by Trinidad and Tobago’s National Security Minister Stuart Young who suggested the Mia Mottley administration failed to respect the twin-island republic’s border policies in its handling of the situation involving 33 Trinidadians who were stranded here for a month.

The Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Ministry described Young’s comments as “regrettable”, as it stressed that Barbados had gone through all the appropriate channels to get the group home. They returned to Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday after testing negative for COVID-19. Speaking at news conference in Trinidad on Saturday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told reporters he knew nothing of a rift involving Barbados and his National Security Minister.

“Let me start with that. The relationship between Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados is as good as it has even been and Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados remain very close brothers and sisters. “If there is a difference of opinion on a matter that is not a fallout. I know where that stoking is coming from.”

Trinidad and Tobago PM Dr Keith Rowley.

Last week, Young told a virtual media briefing that while Trinidad and Tobago had closed its borders as one of its measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, citizens overseas and other non-nationals were using a particular Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nation as “a jumping point” to get into the country. He did not name the country but said that Prime Minister Rowley had instructed Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Minister Dennis Moses to write to that country’s government. Young had also urged the unnamed country not to allow its “good offices to be used by those who wish to compromise our current border measures”.

But the Barbados Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade said “Minister Young inferred that the Government of Barbados was one of such countries,” adding “the reality is that, in the absence of a representative of Trinidad based in Barbados, the Government of Barbados did no more nor less than simply convey to Port-of-Spain requests for assistance made by citizens of Trinidad and Tobago who were stranded in Barbados.”

It said: “In this regard, Barbados acted on the basis of a sincere regard for the welfare of the nationals of a sister CARICOM country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados is therefore deeply disturbed that this action has been framed as a national security matter.”