Jeers and boos drowned out the remarks of acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Priya Manickchand when she last evening launched verbal salvoes at her host, outgoing US Ambassador Brendt Hardt, over his criticisms of government officials over long awaited local government elections.
“Like his President, Barack Obama, there exists a red line. This Ambassador has crossed that line. We have resolved and so informed our partners, with whom we share conventions and diplomatic relations that this is our red line… behaviours such as his would not be tolerated,” Manickchand said during a speech at a reception hosted at the Ambassador’s residence to mark the United States’ 238th independence anniversary.
Manickchand, who seemed prepared to give the ambassador a blistering send off from Guyana, accused Hardt of creating tensions between the two nations during his three- year tenure here.
The acting minister seemed unmoved by the strong reaction she set off, including shouts of “Oh please,” “Local government elections now!” and “Get on with it” that erupted just as she began her attack on the ambassador.
Diplomats and invited guests seemed shocked as she persisted. One Foreign Service Officer, looking perplexed, shrugged his shoulder and commented to a friend: “At a farewell party? Is this called for? Wow!”
Manickchand stated that Hardt’s country was one seen as taking advantage of smaller nations who have no say when sanctions are laid down lest they feel the wrath of “the big stick.”
“We have a situation today where international rule maintained today by democratic countries is anything but democratic… the (UN) Security Council, for example, is an excellent demonstration of a lack of democracy. There appears to be little appetite of those who control that council for any reform,” she added. The five permanent members of the security council are the US, Russia, China, the UK and France.
“Even though we are an independent country… the law of the United States applies in our countries. We are advised if we do not comply we would be sanctioned. For example, the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act… there was no consultation with any of our countries before that law was passed but we have to comply. Our banks in Guyana will soon have to provide info to the US government on bank accounts held by US citizens in this country,” she added.
She scoffed at Hardt’s recent calls for local government elections, saying that those elections alone do not determine democracy.
“We will agree that democracy and the rule of law is not only about local government elections, which I am confident the Guyanese people will resolve in the very near future. It must be practised by all who choose to preach it at all times,” she stated.
Further, Manickchand accused the ambassador of being ill informed of local issues and depending on media houses that she called opposition media. She said the government viewed his nuanced resort to “justifying insurrection” in his remarks at the closing ceremony for a Blue CAPS training programme on Monday, reported in yesterday’s edition of Stabroek News, to be “profoundly disturbing.” Speaking at the closing ceremony for Blue CAPS’ Building Communities through Leadership Training and Service programme on Monday, Hardt had restated the case for the holding of the polls, and flayed a plethora of excuses that have been offered by the President and the ruling party.
“A collection of young minds being invited to such a mindset of future engagement with an elected government warrants our immediate repudiation,” she said.
“For a professional foreign (service) officer… to make such declarations, accusations, allegations and innuendos about the executive president of Guyana… is to our mind totally unacceptable,” she also said.
In his call for local government elections on Monday, Hardt had also invoked the name of PPP founder Dr Cheddi Jagan and this seemed to have incensed the government.
After she was done, a stoic Manickchand toasted to the birthday of the United States and the ambassador graciously accepted it. He then returned to the podium and exclaimed, “What a sendoff!”
Manickchand afterward left with Presidential Advisor on Governance Gail Teixeira in tow and the two exited the function to booing and jeering.
Hardt later told Stabroek News that it was the first time in his career that he had ever experienced such a sour farewell.
He said that he was disappointed at the actions of the minister but added that it does not stop his commitment to advancing the goals of his country for a Guyana that is prosperous in all areas.
“I am engaged on behalf of my government and the interest we are seeking to advance when I’m doing my job… speaking out on behalf of those values, those priorities, if people wanna criticise that, then that’s fine,” he told said.
“President Obama had made clear—he sends us out here to engage and promote the kinds of democratic values and human rights values and so forth that we believe as a country and lead by example. Inevitably that is going to lead to some push back from time to time but I have always been very clear with the leadership in Guyana as to what my priorities are
here. I’ve said from the start, I am here on behalf of my government to help build a Guyana that sees itself as part of the US and build a Guyana that’s democratic, secure, safe, prosperous and healthy,” he said.
“I have said to anybody that wanted to cast accusations and what not, ‘Tell me at any time if I am doing anything that is not in the interest in the people of Guyana or the country’ and I have never heard anybody tell me that I’ve done anything that is contrary to those interests. So, I’ve always felt that I am on pretty solid ground. At the end of the day you have your conscience. You know that what you are doing is what you should be doing and I sleep well at night knowing that we are advancing interests, not only to our country, but [of] the people of this country as well,” he added.