Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne is expected to have a “frank dialogue” with Indian High Commissioner Arun Kumar Sahu today in a bid to ease possible tension between Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Sahu over the PM’s remarks on the ambassador’s communication to Trinidad on COVID-19 vaccine donations from India.
In a Whatsapp message to Guardian Media yesterday Browne disclosed that he will have a dialogue with Sahu on “Monday 22, 2021.”
Browne said their talks will not be held virtually.
“I intend it to be an in-person dialogue,” Browne wrote.
However, Browne did not give details regarding where and what time the discussion will be held.
“This is not about personalities,” Browne insisted in his message.
This comes following the Rowley-Sahu recent word exchange over vaccines from India.
Rowley had commented last Thursday at a Conversation with the Prime Minister meeting that Sahu did not communicate anything about India’s vaccines to the Government of T&T.
Sahu fired back at the PM stating, “I don’t think it is in the pale of diplomatic decency to personally attack a resident High Commissioner.”
Although other countries throughout the region are receiving COVID-19 vaccines as gifts, Rowley said Trinidad and Tobago will not go “begging” for such gifts, especially if the vaccines aren’t approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Browne had previously stated that he had reached out to Sahu, stating “dialogue and diplomacy” offer a chance for the countries to draw close together.
Yesterday, Browne disclosed “the relationship between India and Trinidad and Tobago has spanned the course of many generations and has been built upon shared history, sacrifice, diplomacy and a genuine connection between our peoples.”
He further wrote “Out of respect for that connection, and for the familial, spiritual and cultural ties that bind us, I have extended an opportunity for frank dialogue. Every right-thinking person would appreciate the value of such moments in shaping a harmonious and productive future.”
At a press conference earlier on Sunday, Opposition MPs Rodney Charles and Dr Rishad Seecharan slammed Rowley for attacking Sahu.
Seecharan said while every other country in the world was seeking out the best vaccines for their population in 2020, the T&T Government was sitting on its hat.
Seecharan said T&T went from the lowest testing rate to the lowest vaccination rate in Caricom with only 0.03 per cent of the population being vaccinated.
The Caroni East MP said Rowley has “degraded” our Caricom neighbours such as Barbados by saying he would not beg for vaccines.
Naparima MP Rodney Charles also slammed Rowley for condemning Sahu.
He said T&T had engaged in a “public spat with the representative of the world’s largest producers of pharmaceuticals at this time is unwarranted, uncalled for, highly undiplomatic counterproductive, and frankly embarrassing.”
He questioned what Rowley intended to achieve by publicly rebuking Sahu.
Charles said belated attempts by Browne to mend fences with the Indian High Commissioner “ignore the fact that the damage has already been done.”
Charles accused Rowley of denigrating Caricom colleagues who received the vaccines by implying they were beggars.
“How does this improve our diplomatic standing even in Caricom? In fact, there is no irony in us begging Barbados who is accused of begging India.”
He said the tone of the PNM was to insult all and sundry.
So far, Charles said ten Caribbean nations have received 490,000 AstraZeneca vaccines from India.