Dear Editor,

As I come to grips with the enormity of the possible positive impact Guyana’s nascent oil sector can have on its economy and the quality of life of its people, there are two recent developments that offer me contrasting degrees of confidence, or lack thereof, about how Guyana functions.

There is no doubt that Guyana needs all the skills and expertise it could garner from its sons and daughters if we are to manage effectively our overall national development using the resources to be realized from our oil and gas sector. And so I wonder why would the current University of Guyana Vice Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Griffith seemingly have to lobby, or have people lobby on his behalf for his contract to be renewed. I am not an academic. I know little or nothing about administering a university. But from what  I can glean he seems to be doing a fine job not devoid of mistakes and/or misplaced priorities. But which of us is perfect. The APNU+AFC government is not without its mistakes and misplaced priorities.

I intended to refrain from any public comment about the renewal of the Vice Chancellor’s contract lest anyone seeks to link my views to that of my dear brother Dr. Mark Kirton who, in a rare public expression of his views on issues did pen a letter to the editor critical of UG for offering honorary doctorates when it does not offer academic ones.

I have heard criticisms of the Vice Chancellor for the excessive use of his bow tie; for having the air condition running in his SUV while he is out of the vehicle; for misplaced expenditure at the university; for receiving a $50,000 US performance bonus and for wanting to rent a building for $25,000 US per month, while toilets at the university still don’t flush and toilet paper is in short supply. He has responded to many of these allegations publicly.

As a resource ambassador of UG I was ineluctably constrained recently to have lunch with the VC to confront him directly on some of these allegations. I told him he need not address the one about the air condition being on when he is out of the vehicle, since if the AC is good for the VC it must also be good for VD (vehicle driver). I also told him that the bow tie was his trademark and branding and he enjoys the right to brand himself accordingly. He denies receiving a $50,000 US performance bonus and explained that the proposed rental of the building would have provided for the university to sublet sections of the building that would have been not only income generating, but would have provided needed services to students and faculty. He admits that there are problems with plumbing and other aspects of the facilities on campus but that these are being addressed in the context of available resources, and that many of his initiatives are geared at attracting external resources, which are not disbursed overnight.

So, that a Vice Chancellor that has brought positive transformation to the university amidst some of its continuing problems which he seeks to address, has to have people lobby publicly for his retention, is frankly reprehensible. A recent letter writer referred to the opposition to his contract renewal as based on fear, I say it is based on jealous admiration. And trust me, I know about jealous admiration. In the words of the Glen Washington song “I have been used and abused and wrongly accused but I still keep pushing on.” The VC must keep pushing on.

I call on the relevant authorities to have discussions with the VC about whatever concerns they have with his administrative style and priorities, do so with an open mind and with the realization that we “comebackees” have a burning desire to raise the standards wherever we see the need. We may be too much in a hurry sometimes but we mean well. The country needs us especially if we are to maximize the benefits of our oil and gas sector for all the people of Guyana.

Now on the other hand, I can’t help but express how proud I felt to be a Guyanese (dual citizenship holder) while participating in OTC 2019 last week in Houston, Texas, and its collateral events including the Guyana Petroleum Summit (GPS). Nigel Hughes and Lars Mangal must be commended for organizing the event.

 And like the collaboration that went into the very attractive and well manned Guyana booth at OTC, this event saw Guyana speak with one voice, reflective of the changed political culture for which I am advocating. One could never tell from his presentation and answers to questions at GPS that Charles Ramson Jr. is a leading member of the opposition party in Guyana as is Shyam Nokta who did not make a presentation as far as I know, but whom I listened to in a few group conversations. Robin Muneshwer’s  short presentation, while identifying some challenges was indisputable testimony to the advantages of doing business with and in Guyana, particularly if one has vision and is not greedy.

Nicholas Chuck-A-Sang’s very good and balanced presentation on a panel addressing the sustainable development of Guyana’s oil and gas sector was reflective of the consummate public servant giving credit where credit is due to various presidents of Guyana. The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce’s (GCCI) collaboration with Go-Invest was an apt representation of good public private sector partnership.

In a nutshell, Guyana’s performance in Houston was very impressive and encouraging and engenders confidence in the future of Guyana. The treatment of the VC is doing the opposite.

Yours faithfully,

Wesley Kirton


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