Saturday, July 11, 2009


13th September 2008

Dear Editor,

There is a deadly storm of agitated political talk abroad today, and Guyanese must pause and ask deep questions.

Like many other Guyanese, we may have thus far considered the issues at a distance, and must now familiarize ourselves with the detail. However, it is obvious that some recent comments are cause for alarm!

Smarting under the chagrin of a stupendous difference of opinion with fellow CARICOM leaders about the EU’s EPA, Bharat Jagdeo and Peter Ramsaroop have now transported an otherwise valiant stand on principle to the extreme of overtly proposing that Guyana “realizes its continental destiny”.

By any standard, this notion stretches the bounds of reason, and obvious questions arise:

1. To what end is this sudden, drastic overreaction in efforts at disowning CARICOM? Surely local opposition parties never envisaged (in their support for President Jagdeo’s initial position) that rooting for fairer treatment under the EPA would suddenly turn into a smear campaign against the CRNM. Having been slapped by the EU, Jagdeo is unwisely venting his anger on CARICOM and, by implication, fellow CARICOM heads. This is short-sighted, even foolish, for the short and medium term. A calm but intensely overt effort at out-and-out lobbying before the ACP meeting might bear more fruit, much like his initial presentation at the Lilliendaal "consultation".

2. What, exactly, is this “continental destiny” of which Jagdeo and Ramsaroop now speak? Does it include the fact that "continental" Venezuela, Suriname, and possibly Brazil, all have their eyes on Guyana's territory?

3. Is it the fact that Guyana is increasingly seen as drifting towards its drug-cartel destiny a la Colombia, even as the latest grisly stories from the USA about Robert Simels’ and Shaheed Khan’s efforts to “neutralize” witnesses shake the territory? What part, if any, does the soon-to-be-released report by the Jamaican forensic team on the Lindo Creek issue have to do with any of this? Or investigations into torture by the Guyanese government? If this latest move is nothing more than political grandstanding by a beleaguered political apparatus, then it establishes new depths of debauchery and irresponsibility for us as a maturing democracy.

4. If the CRNM has served us well in the past, why abandon it now with such careless talk? What, exactly, is the tangible evidence of a “next generation” left to face the EPA-tragedy? It is indeed strange that a government that imposed a 16% hangman’s noose “without consultation” over the heads of Guyanese citizens without heeding the pleas of the opposition, and that is now being called to account by its traditional union-ally GAWU because of the disastrous effects that VAT has had on their members’ standard of living, now has the interest of a “next generation” on their minds. Will the next generation of CARICOM states HAVE to be beleaguered by poor capacity and mono-crop exports? Does the agreement in fact give us time to establish this capacity and further diversify our economies?

Everyone talks about their being “some goodies” in the EPA, but no-one, least of all Jagdeo and Misir, bothers to tell us what they are! Are there exception clauses in the agreement? And are their other social issues in, or attendant to, the EPA that we should know about, much like a recent and astonishing Brazil-generated OAS-resolution on sexual orientation last June 3? Is this part of the “continental destiny” Ramsaroop envisages? Guyana's OAS-representative Dennis Moses now either refuses, or is incapable of, or has been otherwise not instructed, to respond on his lack of “consultation” with Guyanese citizenry on this issue. The potential consequences are truly enormous, and may span generations … but no answer from Jagdeo or Ramsaroop on that one. Obviously times have changed, but the questions in the article “Response to OAS and PANCAP on Sexual Orientation, and Decriminalizing Homosexuality and Prostitution” ( ) will not go away, and still demand an answer!
The church and citizens generally need more time to consider these EPA-related issues carefully at this time, and not blindly follow heady political rhetoric! What has caused this new and strange alliance of political forces in Guyana, and to what end this foolish talk?

5. Where and when did the hastily arranged “consultation” session at the Conference Hall translate into a promise to validate the political rhetoric and insinuation of abandoning CARICOM?

6. Where did opposition support for Jagdeo on an issue of principle become a national referendum on dismissing, or separating from, or vilifying CARICOM? The PNC and the AFC need to let us know!

Then there is the rather dubious notion that whereas Guyana stands as a relative giant in CARICOM, we as minnows in the "continental destiny" would fare better in terms of having our own way with our South American counterparts. This would be foolhardy logic, since our language and our history immediately puts us at odds with continental neighbours. Surely active and intense diplomacy and lobbying with ACP heads before the signing in October is the answer, not the demeaning of the institution of CARICOM. Guyana must take on this task of lobbying single-handedly with the aid of the CARICOM Secretariat if necessary.

The failure of other CARICOM heads to await the ACP-meeting in Ghana next month before consensus is very disturbing, but we are premising our denouncements right now on the prospect that other African and Pacific nations will not do as the rest of the Caribbean has done. What, if anything, have our diplomatic feelers told us about the likely position the African and Pacific nations will take at their upcoming summit? If indeed they feel inclined to sign, then does that mean that the Caribbean including Guyana never had a choice in the first place? On the other hand a victory at re-negotiation by an AP/Guyana alliance on behalf of the entire ACP would do the region well.

Now someone educate me: If indeed the EU can now take issues taken off the WTO agenda back to the WTO through lobbying, then what stops CARICOM at that time from itself lobbying the WTO against same effort?

There is a lot of reckless talk abroad, and more questions than answers available at this time. However, one thing appears clear.

We should all stand up and declare that Guyana’s historical destiny lies with the Caribbean archipelago and its tradition of democracy and conservativism, not with Colombia’s drug-saturated legacy or Brazil’s sheer dominance and liberal agenda, nor with the deranged and anti-American demagoguery of Venezuels’s Chavez, nor India’s ambitions of empire in Latin America, and certainly not with Morales’s socialist retrogression or some leaders’ visions of third terms in office. It is indeed tragic that it is the EPA-event that has finally caused Guyana's head of state to finally meet with opposition leaders on the way forward for "One People, One Nation, with One Destiny".

An initial decision by President Jagdeo to not sign unless forced to do so seemed prudent until this escalation of rhetoric. Both Jagdeo and Ramsaroop should keep focused.

Until we know differently, the EU is the enemy here, not CARICOM!

This should be our initial starting point.

Now let’s all assess the evidence and pronounce on these issues (the EPA, and the EU) in the following days!

Yours faithfully,
Roger Williams
13th September 2008

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