Dr Karen Cummings has no challenge with intellectual agility or adroitness

Dear Editor,

On May 4, 2019, Stabroek News published a letter titled `A total ingénue in important position of Foreign Minister’, written by E.B. John. The letter is a nauseatingly repulsive and overtly sexist attack on Guyana’s newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Karen Cummings. I’m not surprised that Stabroek News published this letter. The newspaper’s perennial attacks on national leaders of a certain ilk have been just as flagrant and odious.  

The author sought to diminish the Foreign Minister by positing that she was not in the class of former Foreign Ministers “Sir Shridath Ramphal, Rashleigh Jackson and Rudolph Insanally”  – all older men who are members of the proverbial elitist “old boys” club. Unsatisfied that this comparison was outrageously sexist, the author sunk further into decadence by labelling Dr. Cummings “a total ingénue.” Ingénue – is a noun, whose lexical meaning is a young lady in a play or film who is unknowledgeable, unworthy, unsophisticated or innocently naïve.  The word choice was deliberate. I expect that the author, in defence of his letter, will attempt to proffer a nuanced interpretation of “ingénue,” to genuflect and triangulate to defend its usage and argue that it is being misconstrued. I completely reject any such defence.   

E. B. John’s comparisons are asinine. Dr. Karen Cummings is not playing the role of Foreign Minister. This is not a skit or play. She is the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. She is a national leader and Member of Parliament. She is an accomplished Medical Doctor with stellar academic and professional accomplishments. She deserves to be respected, – even by the ‘old boys.”

To advocate that Dr. Cummings is unworthy of the position because she doesn’t have foreign policy experience is a frivolous, degenerate argument. I know Karen Cummings, and therefore, cannot allow E. B. John’s aversion to contend unchallenged in the public square. Karen Cummings has no challenge with intellectual agility or adroitness.  She is a serious, brilliant, competent professional who has demonstrated the sine qua non of sophistication and erudition to, with expert advice; hold almost any portfolio in the Cabinet.  

Furthermore, except for the Attorney General, no ministerial position requires expertise or academic training in the related areas of the portfolio. Indeed, the Foreign Minister portfolio requires a pellucid understanding of international relations and diplomacy, international as well as geo-political alliances and the “games nations play” to safeguard their strategic, national interests.  

Consequently, foreign policy experience is not a prerequisite for appointment as Foreign Minister. Any new Foreign Minister, whether experienced in foreign policy or not, must undergo a steep learning curve in some areas of responsibility. Dr. Cummings will be no exception. No Foreign Minister will on day one possess all of the qualities required to excel and succeed in the position. Some of this expertise will be acquired during the practice and performance of the art of international relations and diplomacy. 

The Foreign Minister executes the policies of the President and cabinet. The Minister alone does not constitute the Foreign Ministry. The Ministry comprises a collective of experts that help the Minister conceptualize strategy and transform mandates into policy. Every Foreign Minister in the world is guided by such expert technical staff.   

The men the author compared Dr. Cummings with did not hop out of the womb as foreign policy experts with Master’s and PhD degrees and a litany of distinguished career accomplishments in international relations.  Like Dr. Cummings, Rashleigh Jackson was trained academically as a mathematician and Sir Shridath Ramphal was trained as a lawyer. These men did not begin their careers as foreign policy experts. They acquired their expertise during the practice and performance of their work.  Someone gave them a chance to excel and be great, and they did. Now it is time to give another generation of leaders a chance to be groomed, to govern, excel and be great!  

Yours faithfully,

Rickford Burke


Caribbean Guyana Institute for


Around the Web