Sovereignty and independence undermined for too long

Friday, January 18, 2019

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Dear Editor,

Jamaica's recent actions in relation to Venezuela have brought sharply into focus our need to take a more sober, realistic assessment of our much-touted “sovereignty” and “independence”.

While both are good for talking points over drinks, they don't pay the rent or the grocery bill. Decades of mismanagement of our economy, in addition to the geographical imperative of living 90 minutes from Miami, have undermined both. The ability to exercise both is further undermined by the presence in the White House of an unpredictable, volatile, uninformed, and vindictive occupant with zero empathy for small states such as Jamaica.

Imposition by Donald Trump's Administration of a tax on remittances from the United States, a few nasty travel advisories, giving in to the Democrats who wish to maintain sanctions on Russian oligarchs and a company that exercises significant say over our bauxite industry could have a devastating effect on every Jamaican.

It was former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who said that the US does not have friends or enemies, only interests. This may well be most true under a Donald Trump Administration.

It was the wisdom of our grannies who advised my generation that when your hand is in the lion's mouth, “tek time tek it out”. The smartest military men would advise against a frontal assault by a vastly inferior army against a much more powerful adversary. We tried loud, heated, anti-US rhetoric during Michael Manley's first coming and look where that got us. So did the Castro brothers in Cuba. But not the father, Lee Kwan Yew, and son Lee Hsien Loong, who have ruled Singapore successfully for all but 14 years since 1959.

It is a happy day when a nation's interests and friendships coincide. But not always. In the current climate, and in Jamaica's vulnerable situation, maintaining our traditional friendship with US (without poking the Washington bear in the nose), while pursuing our current economic interests with the only game in town (China) requires a delicate, balancing act. Certainly, the decision of this Government to join the majority at the Organization of American States (OAS) in not recognising the Nicolas Maduro Government in Venezuela and then sending a representative to the inauguration smacks of trying to bat and bowl at the same time. But as bizarre as that looks, it's small potatoes in the scheme of things. Far more preferable than the reckless, big, bad and bold rhetoric coming from the Opposition.

Kamina Johnson Smith, in her calm, cerebral manner, is handling the difficult foreign affairs portfolio with an adroitness and aplomb appropriate to the times. Caracas, which has its eye on the territory of our Caricom neighbour, Guyana, is not a hill Jamaicans should want to die on.

Errol W A Townshend

Ontario, Canada

ewat@rogers.com


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