Henry MacDonald (R) and Ufuk Gochen meeting at the UN. Picture courtesy of Mr MacDonald posted on his Facebook page.
By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
NEW YORK, USA -- On Friday, Suriname‘s UN Ambassador, Henry MacDonald, met in New York with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Ambassador to the UN, Ufuk Gokcen, to follow up a meeting between the OIC Secretary General, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and the foreign minister of Suriname, Winston Lackin, on the sidelines of the 67th United Nations General Assembly recently.
MacDonald, on behalf of the president of Suriname, Desi Bouterse, officially invited Ihsanoglu to visit Suriname.
According to MacDonald the visit will most likely take place in February 2013 but the details are yet to be fleshed out between Paramaribo and officials at the OIC Secretariat.
This week, Gokcen will also meet with Guyana's UN ambassador, George Talbot, to express Ihsanoglu's desire to combine Guyana with his planned visit to Suriname. Guyana is yet to formally invite Ihsanoglu for an official visit since becoming a member of the OIC in 1998. Suriname joined the OIC in 1996. This will be the first visit by an OIC secretary general to either Guyana or Suriname.
Neither Guyana nor Suriname has been an active participant at OIC forums. Guyana hasn’t paid its dues for over a decade and that has been an embracing issue for Guyanese diplomats attending OIC meetings. Guyana is yet to appoint a permanent envoy to the OIC.
However, Ihsanoglu is keen to forge stronger ties between Suriname, Guyana and the OIC, especially since Bouterse came to power in Suriname and has promised stronger OIC ties, according to Lackin. Suriname recently cleared all backed up membership dues to the OIC and Paramaribo has instructed all its diplomats to advance bilateral and multilateral ties with the international community in an effort to attract foreign direct investment.
Born into a Turkish family in Cairo, Egypt, and educated at the prestigious Al Azar University, Ihsanoglu, since becoming the secretary general in 2005, has revitalized and reformed the OIC to enhance its role in international affairs by internationalizing various issues facing the Middle East and the Islamic world, especially Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sub Saharan Africa, Somalia and Myanmar. He has been at the forefront of intercultural dialogue and Suriname is the ideal place for him to see firsthand an OIC member-state where Muslims, Jews, Christians and Hindus peacefully coexist and where a mosque and a synagogue stand side by side in downtown Paramaribo.