OLE people often say some people like to put their curse on you. To hear Mr Clement Rohee in his letter, “Granger administration’s blunders in international arena will result in disaster for Guyana,” speak of the Foreign Service and refers to a period he calls the “Burnham dictatorship,” one wonders (SN Dec 14, 2019). Why is the former Minister of Foreign Affairs attributing his destruction of the Foreign Service to the one who built it and elevated it to a standard where it was second to none in the Caribbean. There was no “diplomatic gallivanting” of the Forbes Burnham administration. His foreign policy, in the Cold War era and the period of struggles against colonisation and apartheid, was studiously conceptualised and executed with precision by personnel of competence.
It was during Mr Rohee’s tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs that the service began a drastic decline, evident in he who held the portfolio coming after greats such as Fred Wills, Sir Shridath Ramphal, Rashleigh Jackson and President Desmond Hoyte. President Hoyte held the portfolio after Mr Jackson’s resignation. Qualitatively and quantitatively in the field and having the intellectual acumen to adroitly function in same, Mr Rohee could not put his small toe in these men’s shoes.
The Foreign Service foundation and international alliances we have were put in place by the Forbes Burnham administration. It was also during this period that Guyana represented sister Caribbean countries on the international scene. This was the level of respect and admiration for our intellect and ability.
It was Mr Rohee, who early on assignment, representing this country, saw no harm or felt no insult parading a paucity of knowledge of Guyana’s interest by casting a vote at the United Nations in favour of The Dominican Republic instead of the Commonwealth of Dominica. The ignorance and threat to our national and regional interests were on international display. Shouldn’t Mr Rohee account to us for this disaster, which is recorded in the annals of history at the world’s highest decision-making forum? Prior to that incident– and the disastrous ones that followed during his leadership of the ministry– in spite of the ills (real and fabricated) said about Guyana on Foreign Service, Guyanese’s intellectual acumen and nimbleness were never questioned.
Even after leaving office he is still mixing up the names of countries. In his instant letter he refers to the “Constitution of the Republic of Guyana.” If he is talking about this country, its name is the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, and having served in the Foreign Service he more than most should know the importance of name and having it properly attributed.
Regardless of what any may think of Mr Burnham during his time, Guyana was a leader, mover and shaper on the international scene, holding its own as an equal partner and shaping the global landscape to bring about our quest, as a small nation, for worldwide comity (i.e. peace and harmony). As the Jamaicans would say “Wi likkle but wi tallawah.” We did not have to fear that leaders or representatives would chuckle or knit their brows at our intellect and ability to grasp and respond to issues. We fearlessly held our own and earned our respect to meaningfully participate and influence. We have the achievements to show. Undoubtedly, some may not have liked us, a constant feature of human behaviour, but they damn well respected us. That changed when Mr Rohee arrived at South Road.
There are some things about Dr Cheddi Jagan that I admire, but on his choice of Minister of Foreign Affairs he made a serious blunder in selecting Mr Rohee. To head this ministry, it requires much more than the ability to sell the party’s newspaper, possessing a party card, and being a contributor in the party’s newspaper. This remains a blot on Guyana’s foreign service legacy and an unmitigated disaster of the Cheddi Jagan government.
The former minister had the honour and privilege to serve among a distinguished group and brought dishonour to Guyana on the international stage; it is no wonder, that we are probably still feeling the effects of never being able to “fit in,” he found the opportunity to pounce on President David Granger’s recent shuffling of personnel in the service.
This is not to say what he may be saying could not be reviewed for merit or demerit. Should one be informed by “The Desiderata” of Kahlil Gibran, all, “even to the dull and ignorant, they too have their story,” and Mr Rohee should speak. But to seek to use President Granger’s action to make a quantum leap and take a broad swipe at the Foreign Service during the era of Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham is incredulous and unacceptable. You can say what you want about Mr Burnham, but when it comes to the Foreign Service, respect due!
How dare Mr Rohee. He who retains the notoriety, on assuming office in 1992, in carrying out a cleansing of the professionals from the Foreign Service where one of the criteria was ethnicity, not competence. He should be the last to speak on any issue pertaining to re-organisng, save to share what he did and ask of others to learn from his folly.