Outgoing ambassador of Guyana to Kuwait, Dr Odeen Ishmael (L), bidding farewell to the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah
By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
KUWAIT CITY -- Outgoing ambassador of Guyana to Kuwait, Dr Odeen Ishmael, recently met with the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who expressed his thanks and appreciation to the Guyanese envoy for fostering closer ties between Guyana and Kuwait.
The Emir of Kuwait in his meeting with Ishmael also expressed his optimism for increasing cooperation at political, economic and cultural levels with Guyana.
Ishmael also met with the foreign minister of Kuwait, Khaled Al Hamad Al Sabah, who expressed hope that Guyana’s next ambassador to Kuwait will continue to enhance Kuwait-Guyana relations, as Ishmael has done in past three-and-a-half years.
Ishmael was also Guyana’s ambassador to the United States and Venezuela. He will retire at the end of June when he officially leaves his post in Kuwait City.
Ishmael was appointed ambassador to Kuwait in 2011, where he worked diligently to raise Guyana’s profile in the Middle East.
Ishmael, a proponent of Middle Eastern ties, was instrumental in Guyana joining the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as a permanent member. This membership and the opening of the embassy in Kuwait, according to the foreign minister of Guyana, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, has improved Guyana’s profile in the Persian Gulf. As results of these activities, Rodrigues-Birkett said that there has been increase in visits and economic interest in Guyana.
“We have also received indication from the Saudi Arabian government that they want to send a team of investors to Guyana and they have invited a team from our end so we are working with them on that,” she said.
Ishmael’s efforts also saw the participation of the Kuwait Fund in funding feasibility studies for the East Coast Demerara four-lane road project in Guyana. Now the potential exists for the fund's support for other developmental projects in Guyana.
The presence of the ambassador in the region expanded Guyana’s profile in the Gulf. One of the results is the recent visit of the Emirates aviation authorities to Guyana. There are also closer links with the OIC secretariat. As well, there is faster consular assistance for Guyanese residing in Gulf countries, according to Ishmael.
While in the Persian Gulf, Ishmael was Guyana’s non-resident ambassador to Qatar as well. In April 2013, he met the crown-prince of Qatar, who is now the emir.
While he was Guyana’s envoy to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Ishmael was chairman of the Permanent Council of the OAS for two separate terms. During the period 1993-2003, when he was ambassador to the United States, Guyana and Washington enjoyed the best bilateral relations in their history.
Ishmael was awarded the Martin Luther King Award for international service in 2002, and in 1997 he was awarded Guyana’s Cacique Crown of Honour. A joint resolution of the US Congress in October 2003 paid tribute to him prior to his departure from Washington.
While he was ambassador to Venezuela, Ishmael was elected chairman of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System, the 28-member organization based in Caracas. Ishmael maintained very positive Guyana-Venezuela relations between 2003-2011. During his term in Venezuela, he was on a small committee that drafted the Petro-Caribe agreement. As well, during his term in Venezuela, Guyana secured a lucrative rice market with Caracas.
Ishmael has been a leading political analyst on South American integration issues since 2003. He is the author of numerous books, and articles in journals, books and newspapers. He plans to write more and is working on a few upcoming publications.