By Ray Chickrie and Shabnam Alli
Today, the Guyanese people found out that their president is in Cuba through the Cuban News Agency (PRENSA). The public had no clue that President Ramotar was going to Cuba on an official three-day visit. They have no idea who comprised the delegation that he is leading to Cuba. Further, this information as of today was not release by the Guyana News Agency (GINA). Sadly, this demonstrates the arrogance of the PPP regime in their refusal to answer to the people of Guyana.
Born in Guyana, Raymond Chickrie was a teacher in the New York City public school system and is currently teaching in the Middle East
What has become of the Freedom of Information Act? Why is it when Guyana’s president and ministers of government undertake official travel to attend international meetings, the Guyanese people are always kept in the dark?
President Donald Ramotar and the Foreign Minister, Ms Rodrigues-Birkett, travelled to New York to attend the opening of the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly last month, followed by the latter traveling to Peru to attend the Third Summit of South American and Arab Countries (ASPA); however, there was a total blackout of these attendances in the local media, especially with regards to the ASPA meeting.
Furthermore, in a show of total lack of respect for the ASPA Summit, its organizers and other heads of states, President Ramotar, who was scheduled to arrive in Lima, Peru, did not show up and no reason(s) was given for his "no-show." One would think that the foreign ministry would have informed the media and the Guyanese public of this turn of events but apparently it would appear that such a simple act is asking too much of the foreign minister. We hope that at least an explanation was sent to Lima.
The fact that members of Guyana private sector were not invited to attend the ASPA Summit in Peru also showed the total disregard by the government of the private sector’s role in the economic development of the country as well as their ability to attract much needed investments to Guyana. Also, the government failed to realize that such a forum (and involvement by the private sector) was a lost opportunity, which the private sector could have utilized to solicit investments for Guyana, since this was largely a business forum for South American countries to forge stronger economic ties with the Arab countries. It would seem that the Guyana government is more comfortable begging for handouts rather than trying to attract much needed foreign investments.
Speculations are running wild now as to why President Ramotar decided not to travel Peru, and why his foreign minister’s visit to Peru was kept as a state secret. Also, Guyana Information News Agency (GINA) made no mention of the ASPA meeting. Moreover, it seems like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has placed a gag order on its diplomats. No one is allowed to speak to the public. If they were doing such a brilliant job, Rodrigues-Birkett wouldn’t be “afraid” to give them permission to speak to the media and the public.
Some years ago when the foreign minister travelled to Syria and Egypt for several important meetings of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that also didn’t make news in Guyana. GINA did not see it fit to inform the public of these meetings as well. This lack of accountability to the Guyanese people is a pattern that exists in Guyana at all levels of the government and especially in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The foreign ministry shares only what they want the Guyanese people to know.
For almost a decade the UN position was vacant because they refused to appoint Mr Talbot, an Afro-Guyanese who studied diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law. The PPP regime sends anyone from Freedom House to international meetings and most are clueless of the deliberations of those forums.
On one occasion, a delegation was sent to Senegal sometime back to a heads of government summit, and Dakar never received the names of the delegates. One delegate never made it to the summit and the other was refused entry, but luckily someone from the Senegal’s foreign ministry knew the Guyanese diplomat and was granted entry to the summit.
It takes the foreign ministry forever to assign representatives to different international meetings. An example, Mr Narine Nawblatt was supposedly sent to Iran to attend the NAM Summit after the meeting had already commenced. However, it was not certain that he made it to Tehran as no mention was made of his actual attendance or any submission made by him on behalf of the Guyana government to the NAM summit. Hardly any of these “diplomats” or representatives of Guyana deliver a statement at these forums.
The PPP regime appointed a bunch of unqualified party supporters as diplomats. Only Odeen and Rudy are exceptions. More recently, after charges of discrimination, the foreign ministry appointed a few Afro-Guyanese to diplomatic posts overseas. They are well qualified for their respective posts. And a case can be made that the PNC government while in office produced some of Guyana’s best diplomats regardless of race, and who made international fame. How many diplomats made it on the international scene since the PPP regime took office in 1992? And anyone who stood a chance was stymied.