Speech
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, responds to questions in the Senate today (January 13) regarding the United Kingdom’s offer to assist with the building a new maximum-security prison in Jamaica.

Mr. President,

In the last two months, we have witnessed the continued deterioration of the situation in Venezuela, with increasing violence, loss of life and damage to private and public property, severe economic hardships being experienced by the people, and a hardening of deeply entrenched positions between the Government and Opposition forces.

The situation continues to occupy the minds of Government leaders and foreign policy practitioners in the region and has placed Jamaica’s international relations and our foreign policy in the spotlight, both nationally and regionally.

There have been questions raised about Jamaica’s response and participation at meetings at the OAS, where discussions have been taking place on the options available to arrive at a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Venezuela.

This is a process which requires careful deliberation and consideration given the many sensitivities of the subject.

As an active member of the OAS, and one which takes its international responsibility seriously, Jamaica will continue to attend meetings of the OAS in order to obtain accurate information, to properly assess any given situation and to make its contribution to the formulation of well-informed decisions.

There should be no misunderstanding regarding the justification for attendance at these meetings as Jamaica fulfills its obligations in trying to find a diplomatic and helpful solution to the crisis in Venezuela.

We have been present at meetings of the OAS Permanent Council to hear presentations from other member states, including Venezuela, on developments in that country.

As a small country, the multilateral system is essential for safeguarding our interest. The OAS as an institution for deliberation and discussion, should therefore be supported in this regard.

The OAS Charter makes provisions ‘to consider problems of an urgent nature and of common interest to the American States’.

We are of the view that when questions arise regarding the essential elements of democracy such as the separation of powers, periodic, free and fair elections, access to and exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, then the OAS is the appropriate forum for deliberations on such matters, in order to help to peacefully resolve the situation.

There should be no disagreement that the OAS has been assigned this role by our respective countries and should be allowed to play its part.

Let me be very clear that Jamaica does not support the unauthorized and adverse utterances of the OAS Secretary General on the situation in Venezuela and in relation to the Government of Venezuela.

These comments have not been helpful in achieving a peaceful resolution of the current situation, and we have stated our position on this in more than one forum.

See Full Statement Here