In her capacity as both the Chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and as Prime Minister of Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley of Barbados, has drawn particular attention to her capabilities as a regional leader of substance.
In those instances where she has been required to address international fora as part of the responsibilities as CARICOM Chair, she has accumulated attention as much for the thoughtfulness of her perspective as for the blunt clarity with which she has said things that had to be said. Notably, she has done so without setting aside the importance of not being reckless about the national interest of her own small and vulnerable island-nation. That said, Prime Minister Mottley is not known to be one to mince words about her gut feelings whenever it falls to her to say her piece on an international stage on matters that have to do with the interests of CARICOM.
On the whole, as Chair of CARICOM she managed to ‘double up’ in her twin roles with levels of competence and thoroughness which, arguably, have been matched by few of her predecessors, the twin challenges, in some instances, seemingly proving much too demanding for some others Heads who have occupied both positions..
In the region and again in her capacity as Chairperson of CARICOM, Prime Minister Mottley has also not been timid in immersing herself in what, on occasion, has been sensitive issues, last year’s Guyana general elections controversy being one of those. This, in the context of a regional political culture where unwelcome even if altogether warranted comment can attract, from one quarter or another, the accusation of meddling. That, it seemed, never really troubled her.
A matter of days ago, and in a different circumstance, Mia Mottley again rose to an occasion of considerable regional import that came against the backdrop of a global outburst against a disturbing rejection of the ‘one world’ edict forever paraded on the international stage by rich countries. Come COVID-19 the ‘one world’ axiom, it seems, has been hastily cast aside in favour of a survival of the fittest edict which has been an elite group of wealthy countries ‘hogging’ the lion’s share of the COVID-19 vaccines, leaving the ‘crumbs’ to be divided amongst poor countries, scattering the ‘one world’ principle to the winds.
Interestingly, rather than follow the route of World Health Organization (WHO) Director General, the Ethiopian-born Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ fierce feral blast against this shocking double standard, Prime Minister Mottley chose, instead, to rise above the affray, to which, interestingly, the wealthy countries have proffered no meaningful response up to this time. Instead she took a decision, in her capacity as Prime Minister of Barbados, to allocate a portion of her own country’s limited COVID-19 vaccine allocation to other Caribbean territories and to the CARICOM Secretariat in Guyana. This in circumstances where she could hardly have been unduly criticized has she opted not to go down that road.
It has to be said that none of this is altogether surprising. Prime Minister Mottley almost certainly leads the pack amongst regional Heads of Government in terms of the extent of her political experience. Setting that aside and in her role as a political leader she has never been known to be short on vigour and assertiveness. In the course of her career, her political footprint has reached way beyond the limited geographic space of the country that she leads.
If Prime Minister Mottley had not, up until now, been established as what we in the Caribbean are wont to describe as a ‘world class’ political leader, then the gesture of sharing the COVID-19 vaccine with Guyana and CARICOM would have surely placed her on that pedestal. Contextually, it has to be borne in mind that her own country has its own needs and no one can argue with her for putting those needs first. Rich countries have not, over time, stood out in their demonstration of high-mindedness and that alone would have provided Prime Minister Mottley with ample reason to thoroughly exhaust her own country’s needs before looking outwards. Put differently, the outstanding humanitarian sensitivity to the wider concerns of the region embodied in Prime Minister Mottley’s decision to share Barbados’ Covid-19 vaccination allocation shows up the shamefully diametrically opposed position taken by those named, far wealthier countries in North America and Europe that were simultaneously, stocking up on huge quantities of vaccination supplies at a time when the earliest allocations to poor countries in the Caribbean, Africa were being counted in terms of, frequently, a few thousands.
All things considered and in the context of the crisis that afflicts every corner of the globe at this time Prime Minister Mottley’s high-mindedness is not just a credit to the region but a reflection of the spirit that the international community, as a whole, must bring to bear, collectively, if we are to see ourselves through the COVID-19 crisis. Frankly, it truly puts her in the class of an outstanding stateswoman and humanitarian.