Phillips says vote against Venezuela a disgrace to Jamaica's reputation

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

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OPPOSITION Leader Dr Peter Phillips has characterised the actions taken by the Government over the past week in respect of its relations with Venezuela as premature and bringing disgrace to Jamaica's reputation.

Speaking in the House of Representatives yesterday, Dr Phillips pointed to Jamaica's vote on January 10, along with 19 other members of the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS) not to recognise the regime of Venezuelan President Nicholas Madura, and the decision by the Government to take legislative action to retake Venezuela's 49 per cent stake in the embattled local state oil-refinery Petrojam.

“The fact is we have never expropriated the property of any investor in Jamaica before. It is a dangerous precedent for us to set and indeed it is premature because the joint venture which exists between Petrojam and PDVSA provides for mediation and arbitration, and even outside of that the Government could have used the good offices of friendly states to seek an amicable solution before indicating this extreme measure of expropriation,” he stated.

Dr Phillips said the actions bring into question the timing of the Petrojam shares buy-back announcement. “The question is: why choose to announce when the legislation isn't even ready and when the committee which has been set up to look at the financial viability of Petrojam isn't due to report until May? One is left to draw the conclusion that the timing had to do with a decision that had been taken to vote in the OAS not to recognise the Maduro regime. That also was ill-advised,” he said.

The Opposition leader argued that Jamaica has had long relations with many countries whose internal affairs it does not support. “We recognise North Korea, we recognise Cuba, we recognise China…We don't have to be coy about the fact that there are many things that are wrong in Venezuela, but Venezuela deserves to be treated with respect as a sovereign country,” he insisted.

“If we don't behave honourably towards our friends we soon will have no friends. Between 2010 and 2013 when no other state would provide any financial support for Jamaica, the Maduro Government was the only state that enabled us to survive when oil was selling for US$140 per barrel,” he further pointed out, saying, “the Government should quit now”.

In her response on behalf of the Government Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte said the decision to retake the shares via a legal instrument is in the national interest and for energy security, among other reasons.

However, she said the Government remains open to an amicable solution. She pointed out that the impending legislation is specific to the PDV Caribe (an affiliate of the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA) shares, and is not a law of general application. She emphasised that this will be made clear when the bill goes to the Parliament.

On the issue of the OAS vote, Malahoo Forte said the content of the resolution was consistent with a resolution adopted by the OAS General Assembly in June 2018. “On that occasion the GoJ in supporting the resolution acknowledged that the fundamental values and principles including maintenance of the rule of law, respect for human rights and democracy as well as non-intervention in the internal affairs of states remained pertinent considerations…for us our interest has always [been]and continues to be that of the well-being of the people of Venezuela,” she stated.


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