Debate on this year’s UN General Assembly, which starts tomorrow in New York and attended by over 130 Heads of State and Government, would have provided an excellent forum for Dr Rowley to engage Turkish President Recep Ergodan and gain useful knowledge on our nine citizens detained and how to help plug the Turkish route for citizens headed for Syria.
Prime Minister Rowley advised Parliament last Wednesday that after two months his government had no information whatsoever on the names of the nine , if children are involved, how they are being treated in Turkey, when will they return, and what will happen to them on arrival back home.
We have been told that not having a mission in Turkey made it difficult to gather information on our nine citizens.
“The UN General Assembly however provides the best forum where world leaders can engage one on one on matters of mutual interest”, says Naparima MP Rodney Charles who shadows the foreign ministry and also recently served as UN Ambassador. Former Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar understood this, and attended all UNGA meetings, engaging world leaders and carving a significant place for Trinidad and Tobago on world issues.
President Ergodan will address the Assembly this week and hold bilateral meetings on the margins of the Assembly with world leaders; Dr Rowley has opted to remain home, as he did at last year’s General Assembly and at the Climate Change Agreement in Paris in December 2015 which was attended by 150 world leaders.
Bilateral meetings are usually held for protocol reasons among equals and it is most unlikely that President Ergodan will meet with our Foreign Minister Dennis Moses who is heading our delegation in New York.
The Associate Press reports that President Ergodan will speak on the Syrian war, the migration crisis, fighting terrorism, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
By not attending this week’s meeting, Dr Rowley has missed among other things a golden opportunity to get useful information on our country’s major challenge of being, on a per capita basis, among the biggest suppliers of foreign fighters to Syria. Information gained in informal discussions would have helped also in our ongoing struggle of reducing crime by radical elements.
This PNM administration’s foreign policy is wholly inadequate to the PNM’s often repeated boast of making TT a developed country by 2020.
Dr Rowley missed the Paris Climate Change meeting in Paris. Our country signed the agreement in New York earlier this year, and the Government listed it as one of their achievements, despite not having taken the crucial step to ratify. Unlike proactive CARICOM nations like St Lucia, Belize, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Guyana, we are yet to ratify the agreement by bringing legislation on climate change to Parliament.
Once again we are behind the curve in our foreign relations.Under Dr Rowley’s leadership this country, mindful of the principle of the sovereign equality of UN Member States, is either unwilling or unable to operate with confidence, leadership and decisiveness in the global arena. We continue to be missing in action when important decisions are being made globally on matters of national import. Our foreign policy seems to be either nonexistent or reactive. Our foreign affairs is in shambles. This is totally unacceptable.