It is not my intent to add fuel to the firestorm now engulfing our nation on the issue of whether Trinidad and Tobago through its elected officials and/or functionaries facilitated the sale of fuel to Venezuela; indeed, I hope to pour oil on troubled waters.
If indeed this is so then our country would have been exposed to potential sanctions from the government of the United States of America. Sanctions which at any point in time we will never welcome and certainly now, cannot afford.
It is necessary as we go forward to keep a level head, a clear mind, objective thought, and not be carried away by hysteria and by propaganda. What is necessary now is for us to appreciate that whatever the circumstances and factors are that led us to where we are now, we have to make a better decision as to how we could protect our nation from potential harm.
It had been put into the public domain through the international press, as some have described ‘open source’, some time ago as to the possibility and likelihood that fuel from Trinidad and Tobago ended up to the benefit of the government of Venezuela. There have been interventions by political players as to what they saw as a necessary action to bring into the public domain these issues and to ventilate their positions as to how things should proceed. Let me say from the outset, that it would be foolhardy and almost comical to believe that any citizen in this country other than those who would have had peculiar knowledge as to what may or may not have occurred could furnish any further information to the US government that they do not already have.
The US government has the capability for investigation and the capacity to collect intelligence that is both formidable and enviable. Therefore, to suggest that persons could be making trouble by alerting the Americans to what may have occurred is really to avoid the truth which is that the Americans would have known far more than we the people of Trinidad and Tobago could possibly know. There is an accusation that the leader of the opposition has been a traitor for bringing into the public domain and for furthering the discussion on this issue.
Are we to suggest by closing our eyes and by going “ostrich”, sticking our heads into the sand that what is already occurring in terms of investigation and intelligence collection by the US authority that we would be in a better place? Does this flurry of allegations help us to better navigate the troubled waters to arrive at a safer destination for the people of Trinidad and Tobago?
The issue now is to make sure that at the end of it, if there are persons who are culpable, (and I sincerely hope that they are not) they must be separated from the people of Trinidad and Tobago in terms of their actions or inactions. It must be made abundantly clear to the government of the United States of America that the vast majority of our citizens hold very dear, our relations with the people of the United States of America.
We share common values and bonds in that we believe in democracy, we believe in free and fair elections, we believe in freedom of association, we believe in the personal freedom and liberty, we believe in open government, we believe in the freedom of the press, we believe in the rule of law, we do not however believe in supporting dictators and tyrants, we do not believe in the oppression of people, we believe in international human rights. We hold all these as our common values.
Our long history will show that we have had close relations, both familial and business interests. We the people of Trinidad and Tobago look to the strengthening of those ties not just in terms of economic strengthening but also in terms of security strengthening. We look forward to the day when the United States can further assist us in protecting our borders against narcotics trafficking, against gun-running, and potential terrorist threats. These are the co-operations that we wish to ensure that is strengthened into the future.
If anyone or any number of persons in the country colluded in betraying the national wellbeing, then I do not wish to put a label on it, the citizens will know what that means. As we go forward equally, if the United States is to find any wrongdoing then I say the chips will always fall where they will. What I ask, however, is that they do not fall on the heads and shoulders of the innocent and the uninvolved; the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Member of Parliament, St Augustine
Former Minister for Legal Affairs