– Guyanese claim discrimination
Guyana’s newest Ambassador to Suriname Merlin Udho has termed “garbage”, accusations of discrimination by some Guyanese, while she is refusing to comment on the claim by an embassy staffer, of a contentious dismissal.
Lorna Esther Reid, a Guyanese, who worked for five years at the embassy performing secretarial duties as a receptionist and clerk, was given marching orders by the Ambassador on January 11, 2010.
Udho took over duties at the Paramaribo embassy on November 23, 2009. It was after the Ambassador held one of her staff meetings that she reportedly told Reid that she was being dismissed because she wasn’t computer literate and that she didn’t speak Dutch.
“She (the Ambassador) said, ‘follow me into my office.’ So I followed her and she just sat very upright, legs crossed, arms crossed and so forth, and she says: ‘Well, I am the new Ambassador here as you know and I took an oath and I have to do things the proper way – my way,” Reid related.
At that point, Reid said she was of the opinion that the new ambassador was not satisfied with the work that was done by previous envoy Karshanjee Arjun who served as Ambassador from December 3, 1994 to October 1, 2008. However, Reid was not prepared for what was next to happen.
“Then she (the Ambassador) continued to say that, ‘you’re not computer literate and you can’t speak fluent Dutch’ and she would have to dismiss me with one month’s notice,” Reid claimed. “I was so shocked at that point in time I couldn’t speak.”
Reid recounted that she had received no prior indication that the Ambassador was not satisfied with the work she was doing. The woman also claimed that she was never advised to seek computer training or improve her Dutch if she wanted to stay on the job.
Reid said shortly after she was told she was being dismissed, the Ambassador left for the United States. Reid said she then contacted Yvonne Lesperance, the Administrative Officer, asking for the dismissal letter and a letter of recommendation. The woman said she was told by Lesperance that she would contact the Ambassador and get back to her.
Reid said she was next told by Lesperance that the Ambassador had refused to issue the dismissal letter and suggested that it would be in her (Reid’s) best interest to resign.
“So what was I to do? I had to resign. There was nothing I could have done. I was forced to resign,” said Reid. “I was trying to do my best. I can’t imagine this happened to me. I think I was doing my duties,” she added.
Reid said she stayed on the job despite the pitiful salary, and despite not being paid an allowance when she performed duties in the Consular section when an officer from that department left. Reid was earning US$135.
“You know, even so I liked my job; I liked what I was doing,” said Reid. She sent a letter by fax to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Georgetown to explain what had happened, but received no response.
Some Guyanese in Suriname have expressed concerned about the Ambassador’s manner of doing things, even claiming discrimination. But this is a charge the Ambassador vehemently denied when she spoke with Kaieteur News at the embassy this week.
“Do you know how long I have been here? I don’t know anything about that. Listen, let’s not get into murky waters here,” the Ambassador declared when questioned about the allegations against her way of managing the embassy.
“I don’t think that question deserves an answer; it’s not worth my time. Why are you interrogating me? Basically you have heard a lot of garbage out there and you come and then throw it at me,” she said when questioned by Kaieteur News.
Asked about the dismissal of the embassy staffer she said: I have no idea what you’re talking about. Has Kaieteur News ever let go of anyone of any one staff? So what’s the big deal if that happened here? What’s the big deal?”
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