Foreign policy questions for the Gov't

Sunday, February 11, 2018

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The Government needs to make a clear statement on Jamaica's foreign policy given the concerns raised by many Jamaicans after we abstained on the recent United Nations (UN) vote on America's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

That statement, we believe, is important for a number of reasons, among them the fact that the admirable reputation that Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith has carefully developed since becoming a minister, without any pertinent experience, is at risk of damage following the UN abstention.

An abstention means we do not stand for anything. Did we sacrifice principle for expedience to gain favour with the US and Israel, and if so, what are we getting for this? When former Prime Minister Edward Seaga became US President Ronald Reagan's closest ally in the Caribbean in the 1980s, the benefit to Jamaica was millions of US dollars in financial assistance.

The Government should also state whether Jamaica will abandon countries that have helped us but are not favoured by the US, for example Venezuela, which provided invaluable assistance through PetroCaribe involving enormous amounts of money over many years.

To be fair to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, he has, in the past, said that his Government supports the people of Venezuela, even as we suspect that his Administration has frowned on some of the actions of the Nicolás Maduro regime. On that he has our support as we have made no secret of our disdain for some of the measures taken by President Maduro and his predecessor, late President Hugo Chavez, against political opponents.

It is clear, though, that recent developments in the relationship between Caracas and Washington will most certainly test the conscience of the Jamaican Government.

We believe that Jamaica's foreign policy must be based on some clearly enunciated principles in service to our long-standing goals of economic development, economic independence, the right to self-determination, non-alignment, justice, human rights, anti-colonialism, anti-racism, freedom of speech, and freedom of worship.

Over many years, Jamaica has built a solid reputation in international affairs that is highly respected. It makes Jamaica sought after as an ally and a leader in international affairs. This has been so since National Hero the Rt Excellent Norman Manley made Jamaica the first country to impose sanctions on apartheid South Africa.

Jamaicans are a proud people who are known throughout the world for our courage and willingness to fight for justice and what we believe in.

The pursuit of these principles must exhibit honesty, consistency, loyalty, pragmatism, and courage. If there is any shift from those ideals, the country should be told.

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