As my son has been granted Guyanese citizenship and because of our mutual love of the country and its people I monitor the Guyana press on line almost every day as far as possible. I cannot, however, read the Stabroek News in full on line as I cannot, as a pensioner, justify the cost of a subscription.
I was therefore shocked to see my name mentioned by Dr Mangal in a letter now published in the Kaieteur News, the Stabroek News and the Chronicle in support of Mr Boodoo’s assertions in an earlier letter to the Stabroek News. I am even more amazed now that I have seen that original correspondence because Mr Boodoo does not mention me by name.
I was British High Commissioner to Guyana and was very proud to encourage Her Majesty’s Government to continue their financial and technical support for all the efforts made by all the staff of the Guyana Elections Commission to prepare for the elections in August 2006. It was my job to learn about and understand Guyana and, whilst resident in Guyana before my retirement, I was always British High Commissioner whether at the High Commission, on tour, during public holidays or at social events.
Some of my fellow donor organisation Heads were wavering in their support so I sought to encourage the Chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally, to brief me on the many problems that were still exercising the Commission at Easter 2006 and I encouraged him to take me on a field trip so that I could explain the administrative and logistical difficulties more firmly to my colleagues.
The only time which was mutually acceptable was over the long Easter weekend. We were both prepared to combine our family holiday weekend with a field trip during which I was introduced, by Dr Surujbally, to a number of the Gecom offices and officers on the route to Lethem. We also talked to a number of members of the public about their experiences of the registration procedures, etc.
By the time we made the arrangements there was no accommodation available in Lethem because of the Rodeo. I drove my own vehicle (a 7-seater Pajero 4X4 (DPL 1-02) with plenty of room for my family) as I almost always drove myself on field trips and, in any case, it was a holiday weekend and my loyal Guyanese driver had family obligations too. Dr Surujbally drove himself in a Gecom vehicle which, as far as I understood, was allocated to him for his work.
At Annai we camped in tents as Mr Edwards was fully booked but we were well acquainted with him from his Paranapanema days and he was, as always, very welcoming and accommodating.
We went to Bon Fim ‒ certainly not Boa Vista, which was way too far – and took accommodation in the most basic of hotels there – my children still laugh at the photographs of the concrete bed bases which we had never experienced before or since (see photo). We went over just before dusk and drove back first thing the next morning. It was certainly not Boa Vista and it was far from lavish.
I do not recall seeing Dr Mangal on this trip but Lethem was very full and half of Georgetown appeared to be there. However Dr Surujbally and I spent most of the time there visiting his Gecom office and colleagues and spent very little time at the Rodeo where we met up with our families late in the day.
I do hope therefore that Dr Mangal will make a full and unqualified apology to me, my family and to Dr Surujbally for his unfounded and misleading assertions about my involvement in that fact-finding trip.
There is one aspect of Dr Mangal’s letter with which I could agree wholeheartedly. Dr Surujbally, throughout my acquaintance with him as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, was at pains to let me and any of the other donors know that he fully supported the permanent staff of the Commission and that they would always act within the laws governing the conduct of elections in Guyana. At no time did I, or, to my knowledge, any of my colleagues, have any doubt about his integrity, loyalty and dedication to Gecom and its mission.
Stephen J Hiscock