I note with tremendous concern a report in today’s Express newspapers stating that the United States has officially warned the T&T Government that our country can face US sanctions. This, if it in any way assists five Iranian fuel tankers due to pass through our waters en route to Venezuela.
If true, this latest development in the ongoing escalating tensions between the US, Venezuela and Iran, mandates an urgent, comprehensive public statement from Prime Minister Rowley. He needs to tell the population exactly what are the potential consequences for Trinidad &Tobago since we are virtually caught in the middle of this potentially dangerous shipment.
The Express notes that ‘the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was officially informed of the repercussions of providing assistance to these five tankers that are transporting fuel to Venezuela’. However, there would have been absolutely no need for the US to formally issue such a warning to the T&T Government, had it not been for their recent questionable actions in the ‘Fuelgate’ fiasco.
Here, they have opened up T&T to possible US sanctions by violating the Rio Treaty. This when PM Rowley held a highly questionable meeting with Venezuelan Vice President, Delcy Rodriguez, and a team of PDVSA energy officials on March 26, 2020. He was accompanied by Ministers Stuart Young (National Security) and Dennis Moses (Foreign Affairs).
These Venezuelan officials are under US sanctions, while also facing drug related and money laundering charges in the United States. This week, after over a month of Minister Young’s nonstop lies to the citizens about his key role in this debacle, the US Ambassador, Mr Joseph Mondello, was also forced to break protocol to set the record straight.
This has now led to a serious potential frittering of our historically pristine, excellent relations with the US, our greatest global ally, which can ultimately destabilize our country’s economic viability. As it stands, PM Rowley has been called on by me, the media, attorney Martin Daly, S.C, and retired head diplomat and Head of the Public Service, Reginald Dumas, to come clean about his own role in this matter and fire Minister Young.
Yet, PM Rowley has apparently gone into hiding. He has refused to hold the weekly post Cabinet Press briefings or account via yesterday’s Parliament sitting. Reporters say he’s refusing to answer their phone calls or messages. He’s only appeared in a video on his Facebook page, working in his garden as if he’s on vacation.
But this latest development is not something he can continue afford hiding from, for it is our very national security that is at stake, especially given these very worrying details in the Express report:
– Both Iran and Venezuela have been sanctioned by the US.
– US sanctions on Iran target anyone purchasing or facilitating the purchase of petroleum products from that country.
– One of the Iranian tankers is expected to be in nearby T&T waters by this weekend.
– A force of US vessels, including Navy destroyers and other combat ships, is currently patrolling the Caribbean on a drug interdiction mission.
– The US Navy has reportedly issued a warning to mariners in the Gulf to stay 100 metres away from US warships or risk being ‘interpreted as a threat and subject to lawful defensive measures’.
– The Iranians are reportedly warning against any US effort to board or blockade the vessels.
– The Venezuelan military will reportedly escort Iranian tankers to prevent any attempt by the US to stop them.
– The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) had advised that the provision of support or services to these vessels may create sanctions enforcement exposure.
– The Port Authority, law enforcement and other authorities in T&T have to be instructed to ensure any port access is denied to the Iranian tankers.
Undoubtedly, this situation has very serious implications for our nation’s security. PM Rowley is now duty bound to assume proper and responsible leadership at this very volatile time in our regional history. He must:
– Urgently and comprehensively explain the effects of this entire situation to the public
– Reassure citizens that he has in fact reassured the US that T&T will readily comply with their sanctions’ warning, despite his Government’s recent provocation of them
– Credibly guarantee that the Government is fully cooperating with the US to ensure that our nation and citizens are safe in the event of any further escalation of tensions among these three countries.
Indeed, failure to do this will essentially amount to a serious dereliction of duty on PM Rowley’s part, and he would then be compelled to resign immediately, and call the elections now.