Indian High Commissioner criticises DPI over misleading Facebook post

Indian High Commissioner to Guyana V Mahalingam has labelled a Facebook post by Director of Public Information (DPI) Imran Khan, in which he questioned whether the Indian High Commission in Guyana was interfering in the country’s internal affairs, as both reckless and intentionally misleading.

Khan, who was asked by a government minister to remove the post from his private Facebook page, has since defended it, while stressing that as a private citizen he was entitled to an opinion.

“This is an issue that I raised as a citizen. I have asked questions as a citizen, which is my constitutional right,” Khan told Stabroek News when contacted yesterday about the post he made on Wednesday evening.

The post also attracted a public reprimand from Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence, who suggested that Khan remove it.

Apart from questioning whether the High Commission was interfering in Guyana’s internal affairs, Khan also questioned if it was attempting to engage in destabilisation of the coalition government.

His post was centred on the invitation by the Commission to parliamentarians to attend a conference for persons of Indian descent in India. He pointed out that out of the 23 persons invited, 20 were opposition PPP/C parliamentarians.

“Were any of the Indo-Guyanese ministers of government and sitting Members of Parliament invited to the Persons of Indian Origin Members of Parliament Conference currently ongoing in India? Or did the High Commission only and deliberately invite three Coalition Government backbench parliamentarians while specifically ignoring ministers? If so, on what basis was this decision made?” Khan said in the post.

High Commissioner Mahalingam, who was tagged in Khan’s post, responded and called the post “unfortunate, irresponsible [and] unprofessional.”

According to the High Commissioner, many in the top hierarchy of Government of Guyana and the Guyana High Commission in New Delhi are aware of the invitations from the Government of India for 23 Members of Parliament and three Mayors and the rationale behind inviting only those Persons of Indian Origin who are not ministers. “Hence reckless comments on such a serious issue on social media with the clear intention to mislead the general public by none other than Director of Public Information is unfortunate, irresponsible, unprofessional and to say the least, mischievous given the excellent bilateral relations being enjoyed by both India and Guyana and the ongoing friendly cooperation in various multilateral fora,” he added.

When contacted, Khan said he had only recently noticed the High Commissioner’s response and that he had every intention to make another post relating to the issue in light of the comments made by Mahalingam.

Shortly after Khan made his post, Minister Lawrence commented, saying it was “distasteful” and “not in keeping with how this Government treats their Guests.”

“PLEASE REMOVE THIS POST,” she wrote.

“I have seen the post and I respectfully give the highest consideration to the minister’s comment but as a citizen that is my personal Facebook page,” Khan said, when the minister’s comment was raised.

He maintained that it was an issue of concern to him and that he had a right as a private individual to use his personal page and he added that he did not use any government forums to which he has access.

When it was pointed out that he was also holding the office of Director of Public Information, Khan stressed also that prior to him being head of DPI and even subsequent to him holding the post he has used his Facebook page to comment on issues that concerned him as a private citizen. He also did not accept the notion that even though the comment is on his personal page, it could be viewed as him speaking on behalf of the government. “I don’t see how that perception can be made when I am speaking clearly as a private citizen,” he said.

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