Bridgetown, Barbados (CMC) — Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders were extending congratulations to Dr Keith Rowley, who will be sworn in today as the new prime minister in Trinidad and Tobago, saying that they were looking forward to working with him in the socio-economic development of the Caribbean.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves congratulated Rowley and the People’s National Movement (PNM) on “their solid victory” at the polls in Trinidad and Tobago on Monday, saying also he expects better ties between the two countries.
The PNM carved out a 23-18 victory in the polls, ousting the Kamla Persad Bissessar People’s Partnership government.
“I know Mr Rowley quite well, I know the leading personalities in the People’s National Movement and I’m quite sure that we will work very closely together,” Gonsalves said.
“The ties between St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago are very deep, very strong, enduring,” said Gonsalves, who is the region’s longest-serving sitting Prime Minister.
Gonsalves, who is expected to face the polls before year-end, said the PNM and his Unity Labour Party (ULP) government had “very, very close relations” prior to People’s Partnership administration.
He spoke of his close, personal friendship with former prime minister and PNM leader Patrick Manning, adding that the ULP and the PNM have strong historical links.
“I expect that Dr Rowley will be very strong in advocating deeper regional integration. There are some challenges and difficulties of a bilateral nature with us. I’m quite sure that we will see progress on some of them, like for instance, remaining resources, which had been agreed upon by the last administration and we haven’t had them yet concerning the British American Insurance Company matter,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves was also confident that there will be closer relations between regional carrier LIAT and Port of Spain based Caribbean Airlines (CAL).
“I believe that we are going to find a very sympathetic hearing in relation to matters of bilateral trade and in particular with our trafficker (hawkers), those who sell our agricultural products to Trinidad,” Gonsalves said.
“And I believe that across St Vincent and the Grenadines there’s a genuine happiness that the PNM is in office again because of the close ties between the people of Trinidad and Tobago and St Vincent and the Grenadines, and in particular families in Trinidad which support the PNM very strongly.
“I want to thank the people’s Partnership Government of my dear sister Kamla. The relations didn’t begin in the best way but they strengthened along the way, but I am quite sure that the relations between the new government and our government here will grow from strength to strength.”
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said Rowley had entered the election campaign on a theme similar to what was used by his party during last year’s general election.
Browne said both countries enjoy excellent relations and he is looking forward to working closely with the Rowley administration.
“This relationship between our two countries has only deepened through the passage of time, commencing in the anti-colonial period when Vere Cornwall Bird, the Father of our Nation, worked closely with Dr Eric Williams to achieve outstandingly for the Caribbean people. I am delighted Prime Minister, to work with you and your incoming government both at the bilateral and multilateral levels,” Browne wrote in a letter to Rowley.
St Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris in his congratulatory message, said that there was a wind of change blowing across the region.
“There is a wind of change that is blowing across our region. Your victory reflects that change. The people of Trinidad and Tobago desire a fresh start and have entrusted your team with the responsibility, at this critical juncture in history, to guide your country and people into a more dynamic and prosperous future,” Prime Minister Harris said.
“I have every confidence that your Party’s convincing victory provides you the opportunity to pursue an agenda designed exclusively to better the life of all the people.
“The Federation of St Kitts and Nevis and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago are halcyon Caribbean countries bonded by a history that will forever shape our fraternal relations, which I anticipate will only strengthen during your tenure.”.
Harris said he was looking forward to meeting with the newly-elected regional leader and “to personally welcome you to the helm and look forward to working with you as we exchange views and chart a new, more sustainable, democratic and prosperous course for the Caribbean”.