His Excellency Rogelio Sierra Diaz, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba and Chairman of the Executive Board of the Ministerial Council,
Ambassador Dr June Soomer, Secretary General of the ACS,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed a pleasure to welcome all of you, on behalf of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, to the 19th Inter-sessional Preparatory Meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).
Permit me at the outset, Mr. Chairman, to reiterate, on behalf of the Government and People of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, our heartfelt condolences to and solidarity with the Government and People of the Republic of Haiti, as expressed by Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley, in his letter to President Privert, following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Matthew in early October this year. In echoing the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister, I wish to call on all of us to render support to Haiti, thereby sharing what we have with our brothers and sisters in that sister Republic.
I also wish to avail myself of this opportunity to welcome Dr. June Soomer, the new Secretary General of the ACS, who assumed duty on 28th July 2016. I hope that her stay here in Trinidad and Tobago would be a fruitful and enjoyable one.
We are meeting at a time when challenges of the global environment are creating demands on us, both individually and collectively. These challenges notwithstanding, our Association continues to seek new ways to achieve sustainable development of the countries of the Greater Caribbean.
In this regard, I would like to make special mention of Cuba’s hosting of the Seventh Summit of Heads of State and Government in Havana in June this year. The Summit, whose theme was “Together for a Sustainable Caribbean,” was a tremendous success. The important decisions taken by our Heads at the Seventh Summit will no doubt serve to consolidate further the foundation for consultation and cooperation in the Greater Caribbean. I would also like to commend Cuba on its remarkable efforts at steering the work of the Ministerial Council since assuming the Chairmanship in January 2016 of this year.
This 19th Inter-sessional Meeting will receive the Reports of the Secretary General, Chairs of the Special Committees, Caribbean Sea Commission, Council of Representatives of the Special Fund and up-dates on specific projects as well as reflect on the work undertaken by the Association. It will be remiss of me if I failed to acknowledge the contribution of the ACS to highlighting the situation pertaining to the Caribbean Sea – our common home. All of us should share a commonality of purpose and a sense of urgency with regard to the need to address threats to the sustainability of the Caribbean Sea, such as the emergence of the Sargassum Seaweed, overpopulation of the Lionfish and deleterious impact of coastal erosion. We need the support of all in confronting such threats since they have a direct impact on the economic, social and environmental development of the Greater Caribbean.
I would like to express the hope that our discussions today will be fruitful so that we offer direction to the organization as we prepare for the 22nd Ordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Council to be held in early 2017.
In closing, I wish to commend all of you for coming to Trinidad and Tobago to represent your respective countries because your presence here today demonstrates, in a tangible way, your continued interest in the ACS. Once again, I wish you success in the deliberations as we continue to advance the mandate of the ACS as a forum for consultation and cooperation and the realisation of its strategic vision in fulfilling its key role in uniting the Greater Caribbean.
I thank you very much.
Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs
Port of Spain
November 10, 2016