For what it’s worth: I do not like President Trump’s style of governing. I do not think he is sufficiently equipped and balanced to be President of the USA. To my mind Trump is the antithesis of what many knowledgeable people would say is the ideal for an American president: humane, intelligent, kind, peace-loving, democratic, and above all law-abiding and fair-minded. From my observations over the past two years, Trump reminds me more of the old Mafia bosses in New York and Chicago than of an upright President of the United States. Yet, I would consider it my duty, if I were prime minister, to accept any invitation to meet with him.
I believe that statecraft has nothing to do with my personal likes and beliefs, or my love or dislike of another. My meetings with other heads of state such as Mr. Trump would be based solely on the interests of my country. I therefore think that the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia (and the four other leaders from the Caribbean) had a duty to meet with President Trump. The US is our closest and most powerful trading and defence ally. A majority of our citizens call the US home.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, for his part, inherited a major national security problem on his assumption to office. The US government had withdrawn its support for the training and equipping of this island’s police force—its only security force. Chastanet assumed office with that sword of Damocles hanging over his head. His new Director of Public Prosecutions had his hands tied to his back by the statements and actions of Allen Chastanet’s immediate predecessor.
The US used the provisions of the Leahy Law to demand that the government of Saint Lucia prosecute police officers suspected of “gross violations of human rights”. This case, in the opinion of some respected legal minds, is too heavy a load for Saint Lucia to bear without the assistance of the US. It has been explained by some that the rantings of the former government have not helped in the solution of this matter. The whole affair is stuck in gear and only a direct appeal to the US president may possibly offer a solution. Bear in mind that the police are unhappy and on edge. The families of the victims want answers beyond the state’s earlier inquest. The nation is growing impatient. Some observers feel that it’s high time that law and order and justice take centre stage. If Allen Chastanet does not resolve the so-called IMPACS problem, the whole Caribbean could suffer the consequences.
Those Caribbean heads that criticize Chastanet would gladly accept a similar request from Trump, CARICOM or no CARICOM. They ought to remember that the US is their largest trading partner and that most visitors to the region come from the US except possibly visitors to Barbados. Which of these prime ministers has been known to put the requirements of their CARICOM neighbours before their own? Our leaders love to point out that they were elected by their nationals to improve the social and economic situation of their respective states. What about Allen Chastanet? Whom does he represent? There are, to be sure, some world leaders who consider Donald Trump a buffoon and a racist. Yet, these same leaders, afforded the opportunity, would gladly cross oceans and line up at the White House (or Mar-a-Largo) to meet with President Trump.
Like some former comrades and other wanabees in the region, I can see clearly the singular self-interest of US foreign policy in the region. But isn’t self-interest the alpha and omega of every self-respecting country? And, dear reader, have you noticed that the name Maduro of Venezuela has not featured at all when these Caribbean leaders criticize Chastanet? America has been known to interfere in an oblique and tangential way in the foreign (and domestic) affairs of some countries. It interferes and paves the way for someone they deem more friendly and malleable to replace a misguided nationalist who steals his country’s resources and distributes them among those who serve only the leader and his party.
The more experienced Caribbean leaders, such as my friend Ralph Gonsalves (yes, I can still call him that), are wrong to imply that by inviting a handful of Caribbean leaders to a private meeting, President Trump has either divided or tried to divide the Caribbean. Wouldn’t it have been better politics for leaders from Guyana, Trinidad and Barbados to visit Jamaica and debrief Prime Minister Holness on what was discussed and agreed to at Mar-a-Largo?
It would have been equally useful for Ralph, Mitchell and Harris to pop over to Saint Lucia to do the same with Prime Minister Chastanet. We must stop behaving like schoolboys if we want the Trumps of the world to respect us. We get mad when people say uncharitable things about us, but we need to change the petty incrimination and finger pointing (for which Trump is notable) and behave like the men and women we have proven we are.
Incidentally, Trump has promised to send a US delegation in ninety days to continue the dialogue and make recommendations for strengthening our resilience to adverse weather, the development of ports for cruise tourism, and job creation. Easing US visa restrictions was also discussed.
Before ending, I have some more questions: What would Tim Hector, George Odlum and Rosie Douglas have said about Gaston Browne’s intemperate outburst against Allen Chastanet?
Did a US press release say Trump was inviting a delegation from CARICOM to meet with him? What was the relationship between the former Labour prime minister of Saint Lucia and the Venezuela oil-for-influence deal by Chavez in the region? Why didn’t the Labour government borrow more petro dollars from Venezuela, as did some in the region?
I hope that this article makes you, dear reader, think of the possibilities that can eventuate from an invited visit by the Saint Lucian Prime Minister to the President of the United States. In today’s world there are still more positive outcomes wrought by quiet diplomacy and back-channel dialogue than our evolving Caribbean civilization will ever know.