Boycott of UG’s diaspora investment conference being considered

Dear Editor,

America-based Guyanese are considering a boycott of the diaspora conference on investment being organized by the University of Guyana VC’s office. The main reasons are discrimination and victimization by government, a lack of transparency in governance, the wastage of financial resources by UG management, neglect and marginalization at the Tain campus, etc. Also, relevant questions are being asked on the true role and objectives of the conference: Whose agenda is being served by UG management? Many feel the conference will be another talk shop and that no meaningful action will be taken on recommendations as has been the case over the last two years.

Diaspora intellectuals and business folk feel Guyana is looking to them to provide moral and courageous leadership to rescue Guyana from poor governance. To attend the conference would be sending a message of condoning the bad policy, programmes and action of the government and UG mismanagement. Also, spurning the conference is seen as a form of diaspora solidarity for the victims of mis-governance.

It is pointed out that funds at UG are being wasted on trivial matters. Money has been invested (including on foreign junkets) with promises of huge returns from alumni and the diaspora; instead there is a negative return. Expenses (airfare, hotel, and the works) were paid for some attendees. UG hosted ‘reach out’ conferences in New York and elsewhere with hardly any Indian, Amerindian, Chinese, Portuguese, and others attending.

On hosting conferences, UG management did not see it fit to host a seminar on the 100th anniversary of the end of indenture. The UG management could not find the resources to send lecturers to attend conferences on indenture in Trinidad, India, New York, Holland and London but expended money on a diaspora meet in NYC and more now for a UG diaspora meet.

The diaspora complain that the government does not even bother to engage them, but now wants their investment. Government has largely ignored most of those who played a significant role lobbying for developmental assistance for the homeland. And those who constantly write on the diaspora, particularly the role it can play in development, are not consulted for their ideas. Those who have consistently sought investment for Guyana feel they are alienated and no longer welcome.

Critics of the UG conference say organizers are not willing to tolerate discussion on misuse of funds and on the widespread corruption pervading the administration and/or to address intolerance and victimization. They don’t think there will be space for intellectual exchange on governance or a voice to guide the regime to take corrective action on its countless missteps.

At the UG conference, the agenda of non-supporters will not be served. Instead, only the agenda of the government and the office of the VC will be served. Should the public respond to the invitation to participate in the conference?

The moral weight of those in academia and business expressing their displeasure with the UG conference will hopefully force its management, the government and its acolytes to rethink their policy. As many say, the ‘stayaway’ gesture from the conference is symbolic as it may not move the government, but a clear message needs to be sent.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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