I am deeply saddened having received the news about the death of Sir Alister McIntyre. To me, Sir Alister was a special person. I learnt a lot from him.
Sir Alister served in many capacities in the Caribbean region and beyond but I came to know, admire and respect him most of all, while he served as the Good Officer on behalf of the United Nations Secretary General in relation to the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy.
With particular reference to Guyana, it was Sir Alister, who, as Head of a Com-monwealth Advisory Group on Guyana’s Economic and Social Situation, brought to the attention of all Guyanese and the rest of the world, the sad state of affairs obtaining in our country between the 1980s and the early 1990s.
In the Advisory Group’s report, popularly referred to as ‘The McIntyre Report’ issued in 1989, the Group highlighted that, ‘Guyana’s high debt service ratio was not conducive to sustained economic growth and that Guyana was ranked below Haiti as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.’
It was in that context that the Group’s report had alerted that Guyanese were leaving the country at the rate of 1,000 per month under the Burnham/Hoyte administrations.
Coming on the eve of national and regional elections scheduled to be held in 1990, the McIntyre Report, along with other internal and external factors, contributed to the eventual demise of the PNC regime after 28 years in office.
Sir Alister is on record for a candid presentation he once made to a summit meeting of CARICOM Heads when he boldly warned that the region was faced with ‘unprecedented difficulties including a 20 per cent inflation rate, a scandalous food import bill, a worsening balance of payments problem, and the need for 150,000 jobs if full employment were to be achieved by 1980.’
Today, while the situation has improved somewhat, in others areas, like the region’s food import bill, that one remains like a millstone around the necks of governments of CARICOM member states.
As the first Minister of Foreign Affairs of the new PPP/C government elected in 1992, I had the distinct honour and privilege to collaborate with Sir Alister in his capacity as Good Officer representing the UN Secretary General (UNSG) concerning the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy.
It was always a pleasure for me to work with Sir Alister in preparation for our annual meetings with the UNSG during sessions of the UN General Assembly. In preparation for those meetings, we would first meet with the President. Present at those meetings were Sir Alister, Ralph Ramkarran and myself.
Later, meetings would be held with Foreign Ministry officials treating with border matters and much later, between the Good Officer and the Guyanese Foreign Minister to finalise briefs for our meetings with the UNSG as well as with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister in New York with whom we would have bilateral meetings before and after our meeting with the UNSG.
Sir Alister and I would meet again in New York, this time with Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
At those meetings, we would be updated about the situation in Venezuela in order to shape our input for the meeting between the UNSG, the Good Officer, and the Venezuelan and Guyanese Foreign Ministers.
Sir Alister was a consummate diplomat and negotiator par excellence. His approach as Good Officer to matters
pertaining to the controversy was always balanced. He was fully aware of the delicate nature of his mandate and the limitations therein.
Sir Alister earned the respect of all sides for the period he served as Good Officer.
His contribution, no doubt, will be etched in the annals of the history of the United Nations and other world bodies.
Sir Alister served indefatigably as a development economist, integration strategist, thinker, educator, diplomat and international public servant.
The Caribbean has lost many men but the loss of an intellectual giant in the person of Sir Alister McIntyre is an irreplaceable loss for the entire region and the world at large.
Guyana benefitted from Sir Alister’s economic expertise in the Lome negotiations, the regional integration process, as well as from his diplomatic prowess in his capacity as Good Officer.
In the circumstances, Guyana must not be found wanting to pay homage to one of the region’s true champions for regional integration, who kept in mind at all times that the people of the Caribbean must always be the principal beneficiaries of its future development.
Clement J. Rohee
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs