Dissatisfied with Canadian universities’ choice of President Jagdeo as a champion of education and the environment

Dear Editor,

A letter, the main contents of which are given below was sent to Professor David Naylor (President, University of Toronto), Professor Mamdouh Shoukri (President and Vice Chancellor, York University), Dr Steven E Franklin (President and Vice-Chancellor, Trent University) expressing my dissatisfaction with their choice of the President of Guyana, Mr Bharrat Jagdeo as a champion of education and the environment.

The letter included the following points:

Many Guyanese, particularly those of us in the field of education and environmentally sustainable development, were deeply disappointed in the decision of the universities listed above, to honour and promote President Bharrat Jagdeo as a champion of education and the environment. The record shows that President Jagdeo is definitely not an advocate of environmentally sustainable uses of Guyana’s forests, and he is also responsible for the demise of tertiary education in Guyana.

He retains the portfolio of forestry. During the tenure of his government, severe damage has been inflicted on the forests of Guyana with serious consequences for both the Guyanese people and environment. State forests have been awarded to Asian loggers and other undisclosed recipients under secret foreign direct investment (FDI) deals. This has increased forest degradation on account of the selective harvesting of Guyana’s prime hardwoods. Undocumented and unprocessed logs are shipped to Asia.

Some indigenous people of Guyana have been displaced from their own ancestral lands to make way for foreign logging companies since there is no oversight to protect these communities from foreign incursions.

Two months ago, a letter by a Member of Parliament was published in the press, requesting specific information on concessions of state forest, and the status of forestry revenues. The Minister of Forestry is yet to respond to any of these questions (‘Some questions for the relevant authorities’ KN,  September 12). There has been no national oversight for the Guyanese people in forestry among many others. Before any international deals in forestry are made, it is essential that the international community demand that detailed information on the international deals be presented to the Guyanese people and the request of the parliamentarian be honoured.

The same authoritarian practices prevail in the field of education.  The Pro-Chancellor of the University of Guyana (UG), Dr Prem Misir, is attached to the Office of the President. The Deputy Vice Chancellor of UG is also a member of the ruling party (PPP) in power. The current Vice Chancellor was picked by the PPP controlled University Council. Consequently, The University of Guyana is not an independent educational institution.

Other educational institutions in Guyana such as the Critchlow Labour College are denied parliamentary-approved funds to operate.

The analogy would be for Prime Minister Harper to appoint the Board of Governors, President and other officials of Canadian universities, and directly decide whether or not any college gets funding.

Due to President Jagdeo’s administration, the facilities and infrastructure to verify any environmentally sustainable development practices such as the sciences and regulatory testing (UG), oversight, accountability, inventory (Ministry of Forestry) are diminished or compromised. The irony is not lost on the Guyanese people that President Jagdeo is invited to speak and is honoured at universities in Canada which advocate universities as places free of political interference.

In the light of President Jagdeo’s failures, we are saddened that the Canadian institutions named above have aided and abetted the ego of one man’s quest for public recognition and aggrandisement on the world stage.

Yours faithfully,
Anand Daljeet

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