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Acting Foreign Minister booed at US Independence reception

Acting Foreign Minister, Priya Manickchand (left) and Presidential Advisor on Governance, Gail Teixeira walking out of the US Ambassador’s reception

Guyana’s Acting Foreign Minister, Priya Manickchand was heckled and booed Wednesday night while she blistered United States (US) Ambassador Brent Hardt for creating tensions between the two countries during his tenure.

Shortly after cutting the 238th Independence Anniversary cake, Manickchand and Presidential Advisor on Governance, Gail Teixeira walked out of the reception at the American Ambassador’s residence, Cummings Lodge. 

While Manickchand was launching her verbal salvos against Hardt, several persons among the gathering heckled and urged her to “Get on with it” and “Local Government Elections now”.  Sections of her speech were virtually drowned by the booing.

After a toast at the end of his speech, the outgoing Ambassador returned to the lectern and remarked “what a send off?” He then urged the gathering to objectively judge the US’ role in improving Guyana. ““Everything we have done and will continue to do is designed to advance the partnership of Guyana that is built on prosperity, security, safety, democracy and public health and that health of the people of Guyana. And if anybody could identify anything we have done that has not advanced or tried to contribute to those goals, I’m always willing to listen as I have time,” he said to a loud applause.

This is the first time that a diplomatic reception has ever been marred by such an episode.

The Guyana government and the American Ambassador have been on steady collision course. The Donald Ramotar administration ‎is angered by the American envoy’s position that government and the ruling Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) have come up with a litany of excuses ‎for not holding local government elections since 1994.  Hardt’s latest views were made known at the closing of a training session by the newly-formed Blue CAPS organisation that has been advocating the speedy holding of local government elections.  Harking back to the US role in destabilising the Cheddi Jagan-led government during the Cold War period, the Acting Foreign Minister accused the US Ambassador of  contributing “to a tension-filled relationship” with the Guyana government.  “Ambassador Hardt’s most recent assault on the President and government of Guyana in his remarks to the recently created NGO, Blue CAPS, has in our judgment gone beyond the boundaries of professionalism and diplomacy.

“For a professional Foreign Service Officer , who has been appointed as Ambassador,  to make such declarations, accusations, allegations and innuendoes about the Executive President of Guyana or any country for that matter is to our mind totally unacceptable,” she said.

She described Hardt’s remarks as a “diatribe” that is” totally unacceptable,” she charged that he has been supported by the “opposition-section of the media.”

Manickchand threw down the gauntlet, signalling that such utterances by the diplomatic community would not be tolerated. “We have resolved and we have so advised our partners with whom we share conventions on diplomatic relations that this is our red line. Behaviour such as his would not be tolerated within the boundaries of mutual respect, diplomatic relations and intergovernmental cooperation,” she said. The United Kingdom (UK) High Commissioner to Guyana recently said that the failure so far to hold the local polls has blemished Guyana’s democracy profile and is a violation of the Commonwealth Charter as well as the law and constitution that provide for the holding of elections every three years.

During his address at Wednesday’s reception, the American Ambassador defended his decision to repeatedly call for local government elections. “The United States genuinely believes that such elections will be a transformative issue for Guyana,” he said, adding that innovative and creative communities yearn to cultivate their talents at the local level to find workable solutions to their problems and build safety and democracy.