The defence of Guyana’s sovereignty

Contempt such as Ambassador Hardt is accused of in relation to the Head of State is a serious matter. In 1631, in one of the earliest reported cases of contempt, a prisoner, condemned for felony, threw a brick at the judge that narrowly missed. An indictment was there and then drawn against him, immediately upon which his right hand was cut off and fixed to the gallows. He was then taken and hanged in the presence of the court. (The Due Process of Law by Lord Denning p 5, courtesy of Mr Siand Durjohn, in-service law student at Cameron & Shepherd).

Ambassador Hardt should therefore consider himself very lucky to get away with only what Dr Luncheon described as a ‘feral blast’ by a ‘warrior.’ Feral indeed! As for being a ‘warrior,’ the United States itself may soon be in jeopardy with the number of warriors, the President included, in and around the Guyana Cabinet. Maybe we can live without the United States, but what if Guyana’s warriors declare war on all of its tormentors at the same time – the US, Canada, UK and the whole of Europe?

The principle of non-interference in the affairs of one state by another, crystalized by the UN Charter, has been invoked in defence of sovereignty on numerous occasions since the end of the Second World War. During the Cold War the West carried out a persistent campaign against the lack of freedom, free elections, a free press, freedom ofmovement and other freedoms in socialist countries. At the same time the West was unconcerned about lack of the same freedoms in countries which were their allies and even subverted those same freedoms where they existed, from Mossadeq to Allende. Even today, there is a vast difference in the approach of the United States to Saudi Arabia and to Cuba.

so140112ralphGuyana and the PPP were victims of this double standard and it is this history that conditions Guyana’s response to calls for local government elections from the United States. Ambassador Hardt is aware of this but says that this is US Government policy so that this ‘intervention’ is not likely to stop any time soon. While we have to await the responses of the other Western and European diplomats to see if their ardour for local government elections will now cool, we must recognize that there are well-established diplomatic protocols by which responses to such calls, if considered to be interference in the internal affairs of Guyana, or even insulting to the President, can be delivered.

Ambassador Hardt will probably accept but seek to explain the inconsistencies of the US’s post war diplomatic history, some of which are maintained in its current postures, but argue that those are no reason why Guyana should not have local government elections or why the United States cannot call for them. The Ambassador may then well argue that the issue of democracy has long ceased in international relations and in US foreign policy to be purely a domestic matter.

Ambassador Hardt has been accused of being disrespectful to the Head of State, President Ramotar, by pointing out what he saw as seeming inconsistencies in his defence of the Constitution. He pointed out that President Ramotar rejected the Local Government Commission Bill on the ground that it is unconstitutional but defends not holding local government elections which violates the Constitution.

By relying on ‘feral’ responses by an invited ‘warrior’ to the Ambassador’s home, the President lost the opportunity of defending his position, which he is quite capable of doing. While the Ambassador’s public remarks about the President’s inconsistencies may not be usual, public figures are expected to defend themselves, which is what the Ambassador no doubt expected. In all of these situations I try to think of what Cheddi Jagan would have done. Never, ever, taking criticism personally, being offended by it or being confrontational or personal, he would have first engaged the Ambassador by telephone as he often did. Then, if necessary, he would have made a public response to the issue.

Guyana has already accepted the precedent for intervention in its internal affairs in relation to elections. In December 1989 Cheddi Jagan, in a letter to President George H W Bush, urged his support for free and fair elections in Guyana. President Bush, as if in response but without saying so, expressed the hope to President Hoyte on Republic Day, February 23, 1990, that the elections would be free and fair. The message was repeated by the State Deparment and six Senators later wrote Secretary of State James Baker requesting that US aid be tied to free and fair elections.

President Hoyte’s initial reaction to President Bush and the late Senator Edward Kennedy’s letter making the same call was similar to the reaction of our government now. In fact, President Hoyte said that he had thrown Senator Kennedy’s letter in the garbage. But President Carter then entered the picture and free and fair elections came under direct American tutelage. Apart from national elections, the PPP fought for local government elections since 1970 when they were last held under the PNC. If the US is inconsistent, what about Guyana?

Ambassador Hardt has been a friend of Guyana, has laboured diligently to contribute to the welfare of Guyana and to further strengthen relations between the United States and Guyana. I join the rest of Guyana in wishing him and his family well and success in his new endeavours.

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