By Ian Francis
Prime Minister Thomas of Grenada and his inner circle must understand that the conduct and management of foreign policy in the state is something that must be taken seriously. The seriousness and management of Grenada's foreign policy becomes more important as the nation experiences economic desperation, decline and confusion in the management of state affairs.
Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Given the current situation, the Thomas junta must understand that all grins and promises are genuine. At times when these are shown in St George’s, they must be carefully examined and a timely decision made as their genuineness and sustainability.
This leads me to comment on the recent visit to Grenada by the Emir of Qatar and the state's promises made to Prime Minister Thomas with respect to a possible state visit and economic assistance to address the critical and urgent situation in Grenada.
Thomas and his inner circle was quite buoyed with the Emir's promises that led to Thomas addressing the nation and giving the nation's population that the Emir had visited and committed his nation to resolving the state's woes. The message to Grenadians, hold strain, we are heading to Qatar shortly and everything will be okay.
With great surprise and fanfare, anxious waiting Grenadians were recently greeted with the news that Prime Minister Thomas and a delegation has accepted an invitation from the United Arab Emirates to attend the World Energy Congress. It is customary for heads of government hosting an event to issue an invitation to other heads.
Having carefully reviewed the World Energy Congress, it is fair and reasonable to conclude that the Thomas junta might have misled the state's population by giving the impression that a special invitation was received from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Further information throughout the CARICOM/OECS nations have acknowledged receiving a similar invitation but declined due to the high cost of travel, accommodation and subsistence. Given this information, one can only conclude that the junta did not receive a state invitation and was invited to participate in the congress. However, recognizing protocol and other practices, Thomas and his entourage will be accorded the opportunity to meet with UAE officials to discuss various levels of cooperation.
Grenadians can only conclude that it is another "all fool’s joke" and are asking questions as to what has happened to the previously announced Qatar state visit invitation issued by the Emir during a recent visit to Grenada.
It was quite interesting during the United States presidential debate on October 22, 2012, Governor Romney made reference to the role of Qatar and other Arab states in the current Syrian conflict. While Qatar's role was not clearly defined, many political observers have known for a very long time that the Emir and some of his allies have been bankrolling some of the opposition forces. What is now evidently clear is that Qatar's and other assistance in the conflict is contributing to the emergence of a jihadist movement which spells death for the United States and Israel.
There seem to be some relevance in Qatar's conduct that is very disturbing and alarming. Aljazeera TV, which is based in and financed by Qatar, recently reported that the Emir had left for a goodwill visit to Gaza. Given that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is the recognized body for administering Gaza, evidence suggests the Emir of Qatar has purposely ignored the PLO and, in the depth of political opportunism and stupidity, the Emir and his entourage made the decision to give the terrorist group Hamas the amount of $400 million.
From all existing media reports, both the PLO and the state of Israel have strongly criticized the Emir's decision. Both the PLO and Israel are not questioning Qatar's sovereign right to make a donation. However, there are two main issues at play. Hamas is considered a global terrorist organization that has consistently sought the elimination and extinction of the PLO and Israel. In addition, given the Syrian conflict and future military and intelligence collaborative initiatives between Israel and Qatar, the latter's recent conduct must become a cause for concern.
Since Grenada's independence in 1974, there have been at least three foreign policy missteps. In 1975, the Gairy regime was experiencing serious financial problems and government mismanagement, as demonstrated by the current Thomas administration. With promises of financial injection from various Middle East nations, Grenada supported a United Nations resolution equating Zionism with racism. They paid heavily for such an ill conceived vote and the promised Middle East funds never arrived.
In 1979, under Bishop's ill fated People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) of Grenada, there was an ill conceived vote at the United Nations to support the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. While there were no promises of funds, Grenada's decision was based solely on ideological beliefs.
As 2012 comes to an end and the Thomas junta spends its last few months in political office, the nation is once again faced with major foreign policy challenges that can supersede the Gairy and Bishop follies. The challenges are no doubt fuelled by the desperate economic and political chaotic conditions in the state. The Emir of Qatar and his Middle East followers are fully aware of the Grenada challenges and the strong possibility of coercing the junta into activities that do not meet the global norms of transparency and good governance.
One can only hope that this is not the case and, while the Emir might give Grenada some financial pittances, the assistance could be tied that will facilitate many undesirables from jihadists, Al Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist organizations that are constantly seeking to build strategic bases in the Caribbean. Grenada provides such an opportunity given its weak national security infrastructure, a weak and incompetent foreign ministry and reasonable air access from Europe and North America. In addition to all of the above, is the junta's thirst for cash and other development assistance to impress the population.
In conclusion, the Thomas junta is advised that the time has been reached when political expediency and desperation should be put on hold. At the moment, it seems to be risky foreign policy decisions for Grenada to continue courting the Emir. If these warnings are not heeded, Grenada is likely to plunge into further chaos that will no doubt bring about isolation by various powerful western allies and further suffering of our population.
Finally, it is my sincere hope that the promised UAE financial assistance for the new Parliament buildings will be realized. In essence, Thomas and his entourage will return with the cheque. While the junta has indicated that the Australian Aid Development Agency has approved the funds for the Parliament and construction will soon commence, Thomas and his inner circle should show appreciation to the Aussies by immediately agreeing to end prorogation.
Australia is a Commonwealth nation deeply committed to the Westminster parliamentary system. They believe in the functional operations of Parliament and the junta should recognize their respect and admiration of Parliament. It is certain that the Australians do not like the current locked Parliament and might very well decide to hold back their commitment until teacher Carlyle, George and Tilly open the doors of the Grenada Parliament.
My final advice to the junta: call it a day. The Grenadian people have suffered nuff.