The statements of outgoing Chief of Mission, Bryan Hunt, of the US Embassy have made the headlines at every media house in Guyana including internet news sites. Mr. Hunt was generally seen by the population as a diplomat that was concerned with the strengthening of democracy in this country. The analyst and historian will rate his time in Guyana with positive marks.
Mr. Hunt has been speaking with intriguing candour the past few days. The forums have been media interviews and his address at his farewell party. He is gone. Like Jimmy Carter he came and went. The question is, will he look back on this land in the next three years with deep chagrin at Guyana’s continuing morass as Carter did? Jimmy Carter came here and was enthralled at the breakthrough he made in the democratization of a troubled Third World country. By the time the 1992 election results had soaked into the consciousness of everyone, Jimmy saw his achievements in Guyana as another success in the efforts of the Carter Centre to make Third World countries freer and democratic
By 2000, Jimmy Carter did not have positive things to say about the way post 1992 Guyana had turned out. He made statements to the effect that he was no longer interested in Guyana. From 1992 until 2015 when Carter came for the elections, the Carter Centre had no meaningful contact with the Guyana discourse. By contrast, Mr. Hunt was always lurking in the background with the Guyana discourse when he was head of the US Embassy in the absence of the resident Ambassador.
The value of Hunt’s participation in Guyana’s political contours was similar to Carter’s. For a majority of Guyanese, once the US Embassy denounced authoritarian policies and oligarchic government, there could be a weakening of hegemonic control. Hunt’s passion for democratic changes was probably heightened by the uncouth and crass anti-American gesticulations of Education Minister, Priya Manickchand at the Ambassador’s residence at the 2014 Independence Anniversary of the US. The rest is history.
Hunt has gone to Mozambique but what he said is still being reported on and being analysed all over Guyana. Some of his observations are acute. The list includes constitutional change so that central power will no longer be a hegemon from which all power flows. He wants to see decentralization of power with authority transmitted to local communities who will have the power to make policies for themselves. Hunt believes that real concrete work must be done to realize social cohesion rather than conferences and workshops.
But how well did Bryan know Guyana? How well does he know it even though he lived here for three years and a few months? Where did his knowledge of Guyana derive? From extensive studies on his own of the nature of this country? Or from what stakeholders told him when they sought desperately to dine with him? I don’t have the answer to those two questions; only Mr. Hunt can answer them. But in fairness to the diplomat, I would think as the leading guy at the US Embassy in the absence of the Ambassador, he would have been engaged in constant study of the equations and contours of Guyanese politics. I could anticipate Mr. Hunt responding by saying he arrived at his conclusions based not on what he digested from stakeholders but his own assessments.
If he had his independent analyses, then Mr. Hunt should prepare himself for the cul-de-sac that Carter found himself in when he walked onto the highway of Guyana. The social and political life of this country is cruel and turns genuine intentions into graveyards. Will Mr. Hunt from his computer in his office in Maputo feel the pangs of satisfaction and mental comfort when he reads about the fundamental changes taking place in Guyana that he so desired for this country?
Or will it be the route of Jimmy Carter? Will be look back at Guyana when his three years are up in Mozambique in 2019 and wonder why Guyana didn’t move forward since June 2016 when he left these shores? My advice to Bryan Hunt is to keep his fingers crossed. Mr. Hunt must be realistic to know that his massive effort in the local government theatre may not pay off. He has left Guyana at a time when local democracy is threatened. Shortly after the local government elections that Mr. Hunt so feverishly worked for, the elected City Council doesn’t look like it has any power. It doesn’t know what its employees are doing and it has no power to discipline them. What do you think of that Mr. Hunt? Goodbye and Good Luck!
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