Thursday 2 July, 2020

'Not hiding': PM speaks on Rio Treaty, says media protecting interests

Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley

Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley

Accusing certain media houses of protecting their own interests, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Thursday dismissed claims that he has been "in hiding" amid recent developments in the country.

Last week, United States Ambassador Joseph N Mondello issued a statement indicating that the Rio Treaty was raised during a recent meeting with the National Security Minister, in relation to the controversial visit of Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez on March 27.

Minister Stuart Young was later forced to clarify that the Rio Treaty was addressed during the meeting, but a "breach" did not form part of the discussions.

Two daily newspapers subsequently issued apologies for misquoting the Minister.

There were also calls by some for the Prime Minister to fire the National Security Minister.

Addressing the issue for the first time at the post-cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's, the Prime Minister said he has been accessible to the media during his tenure.

Dr Rowley said he has noted the conversation in the media over the last week.

"Last week, there was quite a bit of media activity and media energy about activities of the Government. Some persons who did not see the conclusion that they anticipated, took that to mean that my absence from the press conference meant that I was in hiding. Let me just say something very clearly now as we are approaching the end of this Government which I lead, from day one, I can say today without fear of contradiction that no other Prime Minister in the history of Trinidad and Tobago has ever been so accessible to the media and has ever made him/herself available so frequently and for so long at events where I give you the opportunity to ask as many questions as you have and I try to answer them."

"And, of course another problem that the country has is, there is a difficulty in accepting truth because there has been so many lies being told to the country for so long, particularly by persons who are protective of their office and their position, that the population has been accustomed to persons lying to them."

'Media protecting interests'

Not stopping there, the Prime Minister further accused certain media of protecting their own interests.

He said there were no "independent" media houses in Trinidad and Tobago.

"One media house is owned by a business conglomerate and the Government has taken decisions unfavourable to their interest. The other one has business with the state which the government is not facilitating. Then, obviously the Government is making enemies because they have interests to protect and we have interests to protect, " he said.

No decision taken to withdraw from Rio Treaty

On Thursday, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar called on the Prime Minister to state whether Trinidad and Tobago had "secretly" withdrawn from the Rio Treaty.

It followed statements by Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses that Trinidad and Tobago is not bound by the decisions taken by nations of the Rio Treaty, as it relates to the imposition of travel bans and sanctions against Venezuela's legitimate Government.

Asked by reporters whether such a position was taken, the Prime Minister stated that the Government has not taken any decision to pull out of the agreement.

He reminded that Trinidad and Tobago abstained from voting on an Organisation of American States (OAS) Resolution not to recognise the Nicolas Maduro Government in Venezuela.

"We have taken no such decision and we've told that to no one," the said.

Dr Rowley said the Government maintains a neutral position.

"This is a serious matter of the foreign of Trinidad and Tobago. Unfortunately, there's division in Trinidad and Tobago about it and one side of it is a division based on the facts and the nervousness of our circumstances. We have to be nervous."

"But, Trinidad and Tobago, we anchored ourselves in CARICOM and in saying that our best position is to defend our zone of peace, and we also ensure and demand the right to be neutral."

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister revealed that during the recent visit by the Venezuela Vice President to this country, the Government was offered COVID-19 test kits.

However, he said they were not accepted.

"The Venezuelans offered us tests kits for them. We did not accept it."

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