KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday January 24, 2020 – Prime Minister Andrew Holness has reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to a unified Caribbean Community (CARICOM), amid concerns about efforts to divide the grouping.
And the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose invitation to meet with representatives of only some countries in the 15-member grouping sparked the concerns, has insisted that the US is not attempting to drive any wedge between regional nations.
Concerns were first raised publicly by Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who is also CARICOM’s chairman, ahead of Pompeo’s visit to Jamaica this week, during which he was scheduled to meet with foreign ministers from The Bahamas, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Lucia.
“I don’t look to pick fights, but I am conscious that if this country does not stand for something, then it will fall for anything. As chairman of CARICOM, it is impossible for me to agree that my Foreign Minister should attend a meeting with anyone to which members of CARICOM are not invited. If some are invited and not all, then it is an attempt to divide this region,” Mottley had said.
But following bilateral discussions with Pompeo during his two-day working visit this week, Holness sought to make it clear that his country “does not want to see, and does not engage in any policy that would divide CARICOM, which is an important fraternity of countries”.
“We want to keep it that way. Jamaica’s interest is to unite the region for prosperity, freedom and peace,” he asserted.
Holness emphasized that the focus has to be that every member of CARICOM and every Jamaican ensure that there is engagement within the region.
“So, the conversation should be how do we get greater engagement, how are we talking more. My interest is to get Jamaica talking with everyone and to strengthen our relationship, particularly with our largest trading partner, particularly with our largest security partner, because we have over one million US visitors coming to our shores yearly. We have significant economic, social and cultural interests, so we should never seek to create an artificial divide,” the Prime Minister said.
For his part, Secretary Pompeo concurred that “there is no intent from the United States to divide CARICOM”.
“We want all the countries of this region to prosper and be successful. We know that countries in this region will agree with the US on certain positions from time to time and disagree with us from time to time. That’s true for Jamaica, as well as true for many of the folks that I’ll visit with this afternoon. We want to invite them all to be part of the economic prosperity security zone that is this region, and we welcome the leadership that Jamaica has demonstrated in the CARICOM region,” he said.
Secretary Pompeo said the US welcomes dialogue with every country in the region, noting that “we’d want to meet with them all, we’d welcome them all to participate in all of the conversations that we are having about important issues”.
“Things that matter to the United States of America we think matter to each and every country in CARICOM and we want to work with them closely to develop a security prosperity dialogue with them, so that we can all be successful, not divided, but together,” he added.
During his visit, the US Secretary of State engaged in round-table discussions with Caribbean officials. He delivered a policy speech on the Caribbean’s critical importance to the US, and the country’s renewed commitment to closer ties, based on shared values, interests and economic prosperity.