On Friday, the management of the American Home and Beauty Centre on Robb and Wellington apologised for a Facebook advertisement of a sale which carried a map of Guyana sans its largest county, Essequibo.
General Manager of the store, Essam Ajouri told this newspaper that the business’ Facebook page is managed by a representative in New Jersey, who made the mistake of including the incorrect map.
He further explained that the person was given a directive to create an ad for an Independence Day sale and to include the map of the country. He said that the person searched on Google for a map and the one that was used for the ad is what they found.
Mr Ajouri emphasised that the action was not deliberate and that it would not make any sense for him to do something that is “anti-Guyanese” given that his business is in the heart of the country’s capital. Two apologies were subsequently posted on the store’s Facebook page yesterday.
While Mr Ajouri has offered a plausible explanation for what transpired it must be stated that any representation of the Guyana map with anything less than its internationally recognized dimensions is an abomination and should not be appearing in any medium and certainly not on behalf of a store based in the city.
This is moreso as Guyana has entered a critical phase of its border controversy with Venezuela by approaching the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a juridical settlement. There should be no hint at all of the compromising here of the map of Guyana. Further, the wide availability of Facebook enables even greater damage to be done to the country’s interests by the circulating of the incorrect map on this platform and its picking up by third parties up to no good. One of these groups, MiMapaDeVenezuelaIncluyeNuestroEsequibo has already gleefully uploaded the mutilated map to its Facebook page. American Home and Beauty Centre must take all necessary actions to have this advertisement with the incorrect map removed from Facebook and wherever else it may have migrated to.
For many years now, governments here have been warned to be aware of attempts by both Venezuela and Suriname and groups acting on their behalf to present illegitimate maps of Guyana. Even at international fora, Georgetown has had to fight off the machinations of both Caracas and Paramaribo in the use of these fake maps.
The point is that the Guyana Government has to wage an unrelenting battle to preserve the integrity of the country’s map from the onslaught that is aimed at it particularly now in cyberspace. Its diplomats must lodge strong objections whenever either of Guyana’s two neighbours or other countries utilise these maps. It mustn’t stop there. Georgetown must ensure that it targets for removal as many of the improper representations of the maps on the internet as possible. Websites utilising these maps must be corresponded with and supplied with correct versions of the map and asked to remove the offending ones.
Even though Guyana has elevated the border controversy to a new plane by advancing to the ICJ, the Guyana Government has not embarked on the requisite campaign to enable the average Guyanese citizen to understand the details of the case and the justness of Guyana’s cause. Various parts of the media and cyberspace continually and dangerously refer to the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy as a “dispute” which it is clearly not. Takuba Lodge has not begun to do the type of work that is necessary to bring the whole country up to speed on Guyana’s case.
There is no sign of the education system or the University of Guyana being involved in spreading the word though they have access to thousands – and in the case of the latter – heavily present on social media and in a position to counter much of the propaganda surrounding this case.
The government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must take urgent steps to redress this situation to avoid any further outrage like the one that American Home and Beauty Centre found itself a part of.
Interestingly, the recently appointed US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo in his independence message to Guyana on behalf of the US government referred to the boundaries of the country which would be taken as a signal by Washington on behalf of ExxonMobil and a likely arrangement with another US oil major, Chevron. Every little bit of support counts. It’s now for the Government of Guyana to take its role seriously.