The dust is still settling on the incendiary intervention caretaker President Granger lobbed into the country’s Foreign Affairs establishment last week with his extensive firings of Ambassadors and removal of its Director-General. But it is already clear that the damage inflicted comes at a critical juncture of our history.
The rationale offered by the caretaker – that he is seeking to replace long-serving diplomats with younger, career personnel – does not withstand scrutiny, since his hand-picked Ambassador to Cuba is quite long in the tooth and is not a career diplomat. He is, however, an old colleague going back to the 1970s when they were both protégés of Forbes Burnham. Two of the changes are particularly troubling: the first is the removal of one of our more experienced diplomats, Cheryl Miles, from her posting in Caracas, at a time when the threshold issue of jurisdiction on the latter’s border controversy is being decided at the World Court.
The second is the peremptory removal of the Director-General of the entire Foreign Service, Ms Audrey Jardine-Waddell, on the patently ridiculous excuse of the position becoming redundant by replacing it with a “Permanent Secretary”. If the rationale was bureaucratic efficiency, in which the latter would oversee the domestic operations of the Foreign Service as permanent secretaries do in other Ministries, who then, would undertake the responsibility of coordinating the operations of our overseas representatives?
Will this now fall directly to the subject Minister, Dr Karen Cummings, who was parachuted into her position, sans any foreign affairs experience, when the “dual-citizen” Court Ruling disqualified her predecessor Carl Greenidge? This is the most likely scenario since it dovetails with reports as to why Director-General Jardine-Waddell was removed in the first place. It appears that Cummings supported the intense lobbying of our Ambassador to the UN, Michael Ten-Pow, to secure the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China, but Jardine-Waddell baulked and informed caretaker President Granger.
While her memo has not been released, it is not difficult to discern her reasons for opposing Ten-Pow’s move, which would catapult him into a very visible position in the UN system. Firstly, while the latter may claim extensive “experience” at the UN, it was not as a diplomat dealing with substantive national issues, but as in a nondescript, administrative position in translation services. Secondly, and more pertinently, the almost US$1M annual costs to Guyana would also only benefit selected individuals at the Foreign Service like Troy Torrington, who heads the Multilateral and Global Affairs Department and “members of the Diaspora” — read overseas PNC loyalists – who would be called in to attend to the needs of the Chairmanship of G77. Ultimately, Waddell’s question would have been “how would Guyana benefit directly?”
Frankly, G77 is an anachronistic talk shop for the old “third world” that presumably gains ontological security in a shared identity of victimhood vis-a-vis the developed countries, as they hold out a begging bowl. Formed in 1964 as “the trade union” of developing nations to lobby for economic and developmental aid – in contradistinction to the Non-Aligned Movement which took the lead in political matters— from the original 77 members, it has grown to an unwieldy 133 countries (plus China) that boasts about being the largest bloc in the UN system. But its achievements have been spotty starting with their unrealised New International Economic Order (NIEO). As with the Palestinian chairmanship in 2019, it typically only serves to buttress political leaders’ domestic profiles.
It is also alleged that to quiet Venezuelan opposition to Guyana’s bid to lead G77, Guyana acquiesced to the former’s quid pro quo that they abstain on the vote on the UNCLOS and, going ahead, does not lobby G77 on the border controversy. But even without this modus vivendi, G77’s consensual decision-making gives Venezuela a veto.
The only reason for this betrayal is that caretaker Granger gets an opportunity to preen on Jan 15, when Guyana is installed as Chair of G77.