Diplomats in Guyana have some time or the other, faced harsh criticisms for speaking candidly on local issues. In some cases, they are even told that they are “overstepping.”
But British High Commissioner, Greg Quinn does not subscribe to this view.
In an interview with this publication, the envoy said that he believes he has an obligation to “speak about things which are right and speak about things which are wrong.”
He added, “And while I don’t consider that ‘overstepping’, I think I would be remiss in my job if I wasn’t commenting on things. I know there are things which I said in the past which certain people have taken exceptions to, but I am firmly of the view that I have the right to comment on things, especially if I am asked to.”
One official who had been particularly critical of diplomats during his time in office was former President Donald Ramotar. On several occasions, he went on the offensive against western representatives and other critics of his government, saying their actions helped to create the negative images of Guyana that sometimes detract investors. Ramotar had also accused diplomats of “overstepping” their boundaries and taking positions without prior consultation.
But regardless of this, and the viewpoints of other critics, Ambassadors to Guyana have held their own and continue to comment on important issues of the day, ranging from corruption, to the effects of the political divide in Guyana and the need to protect the freedom of the press.
Recently, High Commissioner Quinn also spoke about the need for both government and opposition to work together.
He was at the time, responding to questions on how the Government could get the opposition to the table more often to engage on matters of national importance. Quinn noted that it is not just a question of the government finding a way of bringing the opposition to the table.
The envoy stressed that it is important to note that there is an obligation on both sides to be at the table for discussions.
“Everyone, on both sides, needs to accept the fact that they have a responsibility to represent the people who voted them in and they have a responsibility to be at the table and represent those people. I think that should be the fundamental and overarching approach of any politician. They should ask themselves, ‘Am I representing the people who voted for me by doing x action or y action?’
Other Ambassadors who have served Guyana have also made similar statements. Former USA Deputy Chief of Mission, Bryan Hunt was one such person.
Hunt had said that for too long, many Guyanese have felt that their interests were not always represented in the halls of power and insisted that it must change.
In fact, the official asserted that development cannot take place if one half of the population feels as though they are not being fairly represented by the government.
“And it is time for Guyanese to ask, ‘how do we get a system where all are represented in the corridors of power? ‘A large portion of this country has felt excluded from the corridors of power and regardless of the party in office, whether it is the PPP or the AFC, the feeling is still there, and it shifts depending who is sitting in the chair. But the fact of the matter is that, I feel there are some structural failings which should be addressed,” Hunt had expressed.
The US representative had said that this can occur through meaningful Constitutional reform. Hunt noted that while there has been much dialogue at the Government level about the need to redefine executive powers, the conversation must now stretch to the citizenry.
He had said, “It needs to be a broad-based discussion by Guyanese about what they think needs changing when it comes to powers of the executive. We strongly believe that they need to have a discussion on what they don’t like; what are other models out there that they may be interested in looking at, and how the Constitution can be improved.”
More importantly, Hunt had said that it is imperative that any discussion on Constitutional reform be grounded in taking the nation beyond its political and ethnic divides.
The US official had said that he was struck continuously by how divided such a small country is. He explained that whether one wants to call those lines ethnic or political, they are there, and they are very “stark”.
He had emphasized that this is not a suitable situation where you have such stark lines in such a small country.
Hunt had said that this circumstance is further polluted by a system where one side controls all the levels of powers and the other side is excluded. The envoy said that this needs to be changed in the interest of the country’s development.
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