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'Attempt to destabilise?' - Opposition questions government's reason for planned retake of Venezuela's Petrojam stake

Dr. Peter Phillips and Senator Kamina Johnson Smith
 
Opposition Leader Dr. Peter Phillips is questioning whether the Jamaican government's decision to take over Venezuela's 49 per cent stake in Petrojam could be a move to destabilise the Nicolas Maduro Administration in the South American country.
 
In an interview with RJR News Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Phillips said the decision to take possession of the shares is perplexing.
 
He argued that there is no justification for dealing with Venezuela in this manner and for jeopardising Jamaica's reputation as a safe place to invest.
 
Dr. Phillips said he has been left to wonder whether there is an ulterior motive for the move. 
 
"We all know that there are hemispheric interests that disagree with the Venezuelan authorities and there has been talk of regime change. What I would not like to believe is that the Jamaican government is acting at this time because it wants to be part of this general push to destabilise the government in Venezuela," he put forward. 
 
Dr. Phillips said it would be a step backward if Jamaica were to follow through on its plan. 
 
He argued that Prime Minister Andrew Holness could have met directly with the Venezuelan president, requested assistance from a CARICOM partner or gone to an international arbitration panel to settle the matter before jumping to the last resort. 
 
He is urging a return to negotiations to see whether an amicable solution can be found. 
 
The government said steps have been taken to appease Jamaica's international partners, some of whom were surprised by news of the planned retake of ownership.
 
Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, said there is general acceptance that it was necessary.
 
She has also responded to the concerns posed by Dr. Phillips, describing as baseless, the Opposition's claim that the take over could be a move to destabilise the Nicolas Maduro Administration.
 
Senator Johnson Smith maintained that the move is not political. 
 
"Petrojam is about Petrojam...The issue is purely economic. It is in Jamaica's national interest with a view to protecting our energy security. There is nothing political about our decision at all; and we will continue to say we remain open to not only communicating generally, but we remain open to discussing options if the Venezuelans were to change their minds about accepting the offer or if there were something else reasonable they wish to put on the table," she asserted. 
 
 


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