The government should tell the public why Guyana participated in Indian parliamentarians conference

Dear Editor,

Director of Public Information, Mr Imran Khan, last week used his personal Facebook page to question why the Government of India invited 20 opposition PPP Indo-Guyanese Members of Parliament (MPs) and only 3 ruling coalition Indo-Guyanese MPs, to an all Indian parliamentarians’ conference in New Delhi, India.  Mr Khan called on Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, His Excellency, V Mahalingam, to explain the disparities. I participated in that Facebook discussion in which Mr Khan expressly said these were his personal views. His question was vital. His position as a government official does not preclude his legitimate right as a citizen to freedom of expression, which I affirm.

High Commissioner Mahalingam responded with a political attack on Mr Khan, charging that he was reckless, misleading, irresponsible, unprofessional and mischievous. I am appalled at His Excellency’s effrontery and attack. It is unacceptable for a foreign diplomat to launch such a political attack on a Guyanese citizen. The High Commissioner also claimed that Ministers were not invited because the conference was for ordinary MPs without ministerial portfolios. When Mr Khan refuted this claim by pointing out the attendance of the Attorney General of Jamaica Marlene Malahoo Forte, a government minister, the High Commissioner responded that she was Attorney General, but not a Minister – a blatant inaccuracy. The Stabroek News then jumped on the High Commissioner’s bandwagon, asserting that Mr Khan was wrong.

I am putting it to both the High Commissioner and Stabroek News, that Mr Khan was right. I specifically conferred with “a most senior” member of the Jamaican government, who confirmed that the AG Marlene Malahoo Forte is in fact a cabinet Minister of the Jamaican government. This unequivocal fact is stated on the Jamaican government’s cabinet website:  Considering Mr V Mahalingam’s penchant for public pronouncements, I urge him to reconcile his misleading claim with the aforementioned fact.

The Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in accordance with diplomatic norms, could have de-escalated and resolved this matter in an engagement with the High Commissioner to convey the government’s official position and a subsequent statement. Instead, the Guyana government escalated the matter, with the Ministers of Health, State and Foreign Affairs publicly shaming Mr Khan, against the country’s strategic national interest. This is not how a government treats senior officials, even though the need for this unprecedented public censure is a dynamic of the pathological factionalism extant within the coalition government.

Furthermore, Mr Mahalingam claimed the rationale for not inviting ministers, as well as for the political disparity was provided to the “upper echelons” of the Guyana government and Guyana’s High Commission in India. Suffice to say that neither the “upper echelons” of the government nor the Head of Guyana’s High Commission in India, constitute the Guyanese people, who have a right to know, especially in an environment where the very PPP MPs who went to India have been demanding transparency in government.

Guyana, at this juncture, is struggling to heal decades of racial tension and forge reconciliation and national cohesion. I am an advocate of this new social construct. In spite of this, the Opposition Leader and other PPP MPs have for the sake of political expediency been engendering racial insecurity. Moreover, GOPIA, an all Indian organization that is seen as an arm of the PPP and which the High Commissioner engages, has been fostering Indian supremacy and using race as a means of political mobilization. These PPP and GOPIA tactics are undermining political stability and national cohesion, and will endanger our democracy.

In light of this precarious national circumstance, it is unfortunate that our MPs would participate in a conference that promotes race rather than racial and political tolerance. How did this all Indian conference benefit the Guyanese nation? The Guyana government should not bury its head like the proverbial ostrich, as if to say ‘see no evil, hear no evil,’ and suck up to the Indian government for fear of criticism from Indo-Guyanese.  Our Guyanese Indian brothers and sisters will respect the government more, if it stands for principle rather than appeasement.

This is a new era of open societies. People are cognizant that their government belongs to them and demand accountability and transparency. There-fore, the government or High Commissioner must tell the Guyanese public why Guyana participated in this conference, how it benefited our nation and the reason for the political disparity with respect to the invitations.

Yours faithfully,
Rickford Burke
Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy

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