May 02, 2021 Letters
I cannot recollect when was the last time any Ambassador visited the Corentyne and held a meeting with business folks and or farmers or fishermen or stakeholders of the area. On this note, I applaud the US Ambassador, Sarah Lynch, for her visit to Upper Corentyne and her engagement with fishermen and businesspersons.
Conversations I had with people who attended the meeting said they felt most honoured for the visit of the Ambassador of the most powerful country. Every single person praised Her Excellency for the visit and hopes to have continuous exchanges with her on fishing and farming issues as well as on increasing trade between Guyana and America. They want her to visit the Corentyne more often. At times, Berbicians are treated like stepchildren; at times, people in the town feel like Berbice is not part of Guyana. It should be noted that more Berbicians and their descendants live in America (and the diaspora) than Guyanese from the other two counties. Berbician Americans and other Guyanese Americans I interact with are also very pleased with Lynch’s visit. They want Guyana to strengthen ties with America and feel Guyana should sign fishing, security and trade agreement with the USA. America has been the greatest guarantor of peace, democracy and stability in Guyana and of security of our sovereignty.
The Ambassador said she visited Upper Corentyne to hear first-hand the views of fisher folks on the illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in Guyana waters. It is something that also troubles fishermen all over Guyana as they remarked to me in conversations when I was there a few weeks ago. She also noted that President Biden is very concerned about climate change and unregulated fishing; the President held a Climate summit last week and fishing was also one of the topics discussed. The US will punish countries that don’t regulate their fishing industry, or that allow domestic companies to front for other countries, especially those that the US has signalled as a threat to her interests. One cannot fool or deceive Uncle Sam whose intelligence network is wide. The consequences would be severe and would include cancellation of American visas like what happened to APNU+AFC politicians who attempted to rig the elections. Guyanese Americans are deeply troubled by overfishing in Guyana waters and illegal fishing, especially by those fronting for another government. They complain of scarcity and higher than usual prices of Guyanese fish in neighbourhood stores. Unregulated fishing in our waters hurt Guyanese at home and in the US and the rest of the diaspora; there is less Guyanese fish in American markets and at home. Prices are also skyrocketing as I found out in my visits to markets and engagements with consumers and vendors in New York and in Guyana.
I visited Upper Corentyne in early April and engaged fishermen. Fishermen are deeply troubled by reduced catch in recent years and particularly so over the last few months. They complain bitterly about a foreign owned fishing depot on East Bank that they fear would further impact on their catch, their income and on the price of fish for local consumers. Indeed, fish price has been constantly on the upward tick. That recent visit and inquiries about pricing have led me to conclude that the price of fish is substantially higher on the Corentyne and in Berbice in general than in the greater Georgetown or urban and West Coast areas. Reduced catch and price of fuel have reduced the income of fishermen as well as fish vendors.
It is very unusual for a diplomat to visit a far off, kind of a remote rural area. And diplomats don’t normally engage local people on domestic issues. It must have been an issue that troubles the US for its Ambassador to visit and to send a strong message on unregulated fishing. Fishing has become a national security issue. The fishermen should work closely with the US for advice on how to secure their livelihood by not overfishing and allowing the fish stock to increase. Now, more than ever, our government should also team up with the US to monitor fishing. Unregulated fishing does not serve our interests.
Her Excellency Sarah Lynch has been reaching out in a subtle way with Guyanese in several parts of the country and in addressing issues that have been impacting on their livelihood. The US is interested in good governance, increased trade and investment, enhanced development of Guyana’s youth and women’s entrepreneurship and increased security. And the US has been very supportive in these areas. The Ambassador’s visibility is cheered. She should visit more places and make America’s views known particularly when the US is displeased with Guyana’s ties with other countries, especially those in the east, that threaten US interests.
Guyana’s relationship with the US should be strengthened. I say this from my knowledge and expertise in studying US foreign policy and national security issues. When ties become sour, serious consequences follow as happened in 1953, 1964 and 2015. The US stood with us in 1992 and 2020 in protecting democracy and allowing a government to be sworn in that won a free and fair election. Our gratitude to the US must be everlasting. Our commitment to the US should trump everything else. Now is the time to reinforce Guyana’s partnership with America.
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