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House Speaker, Nigel Hughes condemn Acting Foreign Minister’s attitude

US Ambassador Brent Hardt and Acting Foreign Minister Priya Manickchand

House Speaker, Raphael Trotman Wednesday night distanced himself from Acting Foreign Minister, Priya Manickchand’s undiplomatic outburst at United States (US) Ambassador, Brent Hardt at an Independence Day reception he hosted.

“She certainly didn’t represent me, as Speaker of the National Assembly, and the majority of the National Assembly and as far as I know the overwhelming majority of the people of Guyana so for me it was in bad taste, an insult to our host and it was unfortunate that we descended to that very, very low level,” he told reporters.

The Speaker did not expect Manickchand’s unsavoury comments to hurt relations between Guyanese and Americans but he forecast that it might cause “greater tension” between the governments of the two countries. “The US government is well aware that the overwhelming majority of the people of Guyana support their presence and their involvement in matters in Guyana so I don’t think that in any way it will hamper relations,” he said.

During her attack several invitees booed and heckled, almost making parts of her speech inaudible.

Chairman of the smaller opposition Alliance For Change (AFC), Nigel Hughes expressed outrage at Manickchand’s verbal onslaught on the outgoing American envoy and described it as “the most vulgar display of our worst aspects of our culture here on show tonight. “

While Hughes was willing to concede that the top US diplomat might have incensed government by its repeated frank calls for the Donald Ramotar administration to call Local Government Elections, he said the minister’s remarks were “absolutely unacceptable” and amounted to a “national embarrassment.”  “I think that he touched a nerve but I would have thought that after fifty years of independence that we have had the depth of vocabulary, the ability to respond even if we felt that way in a manner that was not that crude,” said Hughes.

Shortly after offering a sting assessment of Hardt’s three-year tour-of-duty as Ambassador to Guyana, the Acting Foreign Minister, and Presidential Advisor on Governance, Gail Teixeira walked out of the reception that was held at the Ambassador’s residence. Manickchand said Hardt’s tenure resulted in tensions between the two countries.

The Guyana government has been incensed in recent months by the start of the US$1.2 million Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project that seeks to build greater inter-party relations , involve and motivate youths and women in political decision-making and educate Guyanese about the Local Government system. The Ramotar administration had contended that it was not consulted before the project began, but in recent weeks government has accepted the project virtually unchanged.

Further angering the Guyana government in recent days was the Ambassador’s listing and rubbishing of the several explanations and excuses for not holding Local Government Elections since 1994. “As one reads the diatribe against our president… at the liberties he has taken with diplomatic conventions, commitment to accuracy and sense of occasion, this situation I report is intolerable, the Ambassador has been associated with a dedicated attack on the president and the government on the holding of local government election,” she said in a speech that was not entirely dissimilar from the governing People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) statement about Hardt.