Moonilal: We’re not with PM on Venezuela gasoline drama; FITUN: Opposition MP is ‘cowardly and desperate’


MP Dr Roodal Moonilal: “[…] I was of the view that, if true, this assistance rendered [by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley] to the regime of Nicolas Maduro… was an affront to the community of free nations and further posed a risk that Trinidad and Tobago could be met with economic sanctions…”

FITUN president Joseph Remy: “[…] We are flabbergasted by the Opposition’s MP alleged kow towing to the beck and call of the United States government. When last we checked, despite the fact that we belong to the global village, Trinidad and Tobago was and still is a sovereign state.”

The following is a letter by UNC MP Dr Roodal Moonilal to United States Ambassador Joseph M Mondello condemning the ‘facilitation’ of the sale of gasoline to Venezuela; and a response to that letter by FITUN president Joseph Remy:

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (left) and Venezuela President Nicholás Maduro during a meeting in Port of Spain on 23 May 2016.
(Copyright Reuters/El Confidencial)

Ambassador Joseph M Mondello,

United States Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago,

Dear Ambassador,

Re: The alleged use of Trinidad and Tobago’s resources to facilitate the sale of gasoline to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

I write you as the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Oropouche East in the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to bring to your attention a matter of mutual and grave international concern.

Excellency, at this most difficult and unimaginable time in global history the relationship with our traditional international allies will assume greater importance as we seek to secure the medical, financial, business and other resources and support to provide for the needs of all sectors of our economy and its citizenry.

A pillar of any recovery strategy must be policy co-operation and inter dependency rooted in strong economic and financial collaboration in the international community.

For many decades, the governments and peoples of Trinidad and Tobago and the United States of America have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship in just about every sphere of human activity and the relationship with your country is one that we would want to preserve and protect.

It is in these circumstances that we became troubled when we saw the following ‘Reuters World News’ story that was published on Sunday 26 April 2020 (copy enclosed):

[…] Excellency, the loading of the Aldan in Trinidad and Tobago, if factual in nature, could not have occurred without the knowledge, consent and facilitation of the present government of our country, since our relevant petro and port facilities are all controlled and operated by the government and its state enterprises.

Photo: Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal.
(via Stabroek News)

I was of the view that, if true, this assistance rendered to the regime of Nicolas Maduro, which has been branded as undemocratic, unconstitutional, and illegal by the United States of America as well as by all our allies of good conscience, was an affront to the community of free nations and further posed a risk that Trinidad and Tobago could be met with economic sanctions.

Such economic sanctions, if imposed in these difficult times, would have a devastating effect on the wellbeing of this society and undermine all post Covid-19 recovery strategies.

It is for that reason that at the first available opportunity on Monday 27 April 2020, on behalf of the Parliamentary opposition, I sought to raise this issue for debate as a matter of ‘urgent public importance’ pursuant to our parliament’s standing orders, so that the government could be called upon to respond and account to the population by way of denial, affirmation, explanation or excuse as it saw fit.

I believed that raising the matter this manner was in keeping with the spirit and intent of the democratic tradition of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago.

Upon my doing so, the Speaker of the House of Representatives the Honourable Brigid Annisette-George refused to grant her permission for the matter to be debated and aired in the Parliament. The Speaker indicated that this matter did not meet the high bar required for a motion of urgent public importance. This was most unfortunate in my respectful view.

In the circumstances, I considered it appropriate that I should present you with a copy of the proceedings from the Parliament as recorded in the Hansard, the official public record, for Monday 27 April 2020 (enclosed) for your record and contemplation as you may see fit.

Yours respectfully,

Dr Roodal Moonilal,

Member of Parliament for Oropouche East

Photo: United States of America president Donald Trump.

Fitun is appalled by Opposition MP letter to US Ambassador:

The Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non-Governmental Organizations, FITUN, would like to express its strongest disagreement with the approach taken by the Member of Parliament for Oropouche East, in writing to the United States Ambassador relative to the alleged claim that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago had facilitated the sale of a shipment of fuel to Venezuela by using Aruba as a decoy destination.

We wish to make it pellucidly clear that we hold no brief for the Dr Keith Rowley-led PNM Government, but we have over the years of our existence been deeply committed to the development of a sovereign Trinidad and Tobago, grounded on the principles of social justice and participatory democracy.

In this vein, we are flabbergasted by the Opposition’s MP alleged kow towing to the beck and call of the United States government.

When last we checked, despite the fact that we belong to the global village, Trinidad and Tobago was and still is a sovereign state. Our understanding of this means that Trinidad and Tobago as a sovereign state, is in complete and exclusive control of all people and property with its territory.

We are not getting into the debate of whether the shipment was destined for Aruba or Venezuela, that would be revealed in the passage of time, and we are convinced it will be revealed very soon. We want to posit our argument from the perspective of the dastardly and obscene display by the MP in using his official letterhead, which belongs to the state, to write such a disgusting letter—in the process apparently undermining the constitution of our sovereign state.

We would like to know if the MP is suggesting that American government is in control of our constitution to the extent that when we have to make such decisions as it relates to the sale of our indigenous assets, we must seek the approval of the USA.

Photo: United States Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, Joseph M Mondello.

We at FITUN are guided by the preamble of our constitution, which states: Whereas the People of Trinidad and Tobago:

  • (a) have affirmed that the nation of Trinidad and Tobago is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, faith in fundamental human rights and freedoms, the position of the family in a society of free men and free institutions, the dignity of the human person and the equal and inalienable rights with which all members of the human family are endowed by their Creator;
  • (b) respect the principles of social justice and therefore believe that the operation of the economic system should result in the material resources of the community being so distributed as to subserve the common good, that there should be adequate means of livelihood for all, that labour should not be exploited or forced by economic necessity to operate in inhumane conditions but that there should be opportunity for advancement on the basis of recognition of merit, ability and integrity;
  • (c) recognise that men and institutions remain free only when freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law;
  • (d) desire that their constitution should enshrine the above mentioned principles and beliefs and make provision for ensuring the protection in Trinidad and Tobago of fundamental human rights and freedoms.

FITUN would like to state that we cannot see why all this fuss and kan ka tang is being made about the alleged sale of fuel to Venezuela—whether that was so or not is not the issue we are raising. And if it is proven to be true, then we the people of Trinidad and Tobago are the rightful people to deal with the PNM government if we believe that was was wrong.

We at FITUN believe that the ‘disinfectant and clorox’ led American government was farse and out of place to threaten a sovereign state for engaging in activities that are in alignment with its constitution. We continue to trade and engage in legitimate business activities with Cuba despite the American government’s obscene disregard for repeated UN votes for the removal of the trade embargo against that country.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago prime minister Basdeo Panday (right) shares a joke with then Cuba president Fidel Castro during the closing ceremony of a CARIFORUM meeting in 1998.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Roberto SCchmidt)

We have not seen a letter from the MP or any other opposition MP complaining about that. So, what if we decide to trade with another sovereign state, we believe that all this fuss is being made because the US wants to use their trade embargo to force a regime change in Venezuela.

We recall the prime minister stating that Trinidad and Tobago was not going to get involved in another sovereign state internal affairs, a position that was also enunciated by Caricom through its venerable letter PM Mia Mottley.

We would like to recommend that this cowardly and desperate action of the MP should be frowned upon by every right-thinking patriotic citizen of T&T.

We wish to point the opposition MP to the ravaging exploitation that is being meted out to citizens and small businesses by the commercial banks in the country during this pandemic. People, particularly senior citizens, are being forced to line up like animals to access service from the commercial banks who have closed down some of their branches, especially in rural areas—where people are now being forced to travel in public transportation several miles, exposing themselves to the virus, just to access their funds or transact legitimate business.

In addition, they are being offered a disguised relief through what the banks call a loan payment waiver but with all the deferred payments and interest compounded, so when the restrictions are lifted, those persons would then have to pay more for the loans that they would have secured.

Photo: A satirical take on bank loans.
(Copyright Glasbergen)

All this being done against the background of the commercial banks receiving concessions from the Central Bank, which gave them much more liquidity. We believe that these are the issues that the MP should pursue for and on behalf of all the citizens of our sovereign state, particularly the vulnerable citizens, consistent with the preamble of our constitution.

Joseph Remy,

FITUN president





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