Sunday, March 21, 2004

T&T: Fishy oil dispute making life iffy for Trinis in Barbados

It was a collective view among the group that relations on the job have been severely strained especially since the February 16 address by Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur, in which he imposed the sanctions on a range of goods being imported from Trinidad to Barbados. In the address, Arthur outlined the various aspects of the Barbados economy which were being dominated by the Trinidad presence, saying in some instances he was happy for it, and that it was welcome for strategic reasons. He said, however, that whereas there was Trinidadian investment in the signal Barbadian tourism sector there was no equivalent coming in the other direction. He said it in a way as to suggest that this was an unequal relationship.

It was not so much what he said, the group agreed however, as it was with the way he said it. It was the "frothing at the mouth"-type of delivery, they said, concluding that this could represent a touchstone for pent-up anti-Trinidadian sentiments being harboured by many of their host colleagues. Several of them in the group testified that discretion being the better part of valour, there has been an elaborately unspoken agreement on both sides not to engage in any discussion, on the job or off, about the current points at issue. This, they all agreed, is making for very stilted relations these days.

"Trinis with substantial investment here are feeling very nervous at the moment I can tell you," one man declared. "It starts with simple things, All you need is a trigger, and years of harmonious relations can be rent asunder," he said.

"I think Arthur is one of the most sensible of the current generation of prime ministers in the region, but on this issue I think he just lost it," one man said. "His body language was atrocious. It was almost frightening to watch."
If this is how Barbados wants to play it, the government could start by repaying all those millions of dollars in loans T&T made to Barbados, loans which have never been repaid. T&T is the little America of the Caribbean -- giving money and getting kicked in the teeth in return.

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