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US Ambassador brushes off criticisms; AFC lambastes Manickchand

US Ambassador Brent Hardt and Acting Foreign Minister Priya Manickchand

Outgoing United States (US) Ambassador, Brent Hardt on Thursday declined to react to criticisms that he has been too intrusive and bordering on being colonialist in dealing with issues in Guyana.

“I wouldn’t…I mean I’m here to engage. We put forward our views with clarity, the views representing the values and goals of our country and I’m confident in the work that we do and I sleep well in the night knowing that I think we have been able to advance those goals and objectives in many, many ways,” he said.

Hardt dismissed Acting Foreign Minister, Priya Manickchand’s view that he was responsible for a relationship filled with tension over the past three years.  “I think of you look at the scope of the work that we do, the scope of work that we have done, you couldn’t do that in an environment that was characterized by tension so I just don’t share that kind of consensus. We have found the way forward on even the most difficult issues and we continue to do that,” he said.

The US Ambassador noted that Manickchand’s “attack” did not address the substance of his concerns. “As you probably noticed, in the course of the attack there was no substantive response to the issues that I raised so I think that’s the issue that people should be focusing and trying to focus on what’s the response on the issue,” he said.

His comments to reporters came less than two hours before the smaller opposition Alliance For Change (AFC) dissociated itself from stinging and undiplomatic criticisms of the American envoy at a US Independence Day reception he hosted Wednesday night at his residence by Manickchand.

The Guyana government has in recent months demonstrated increasing impatience with the US over its earlier insistence that a US$1.2 million Leadership and Democracy (LEAD) project would go ahead, although the Ramotar administration had maintained that it was not properly consulted.  Manickchand’s outburst Wednesday night came just days after the American Ambassador rubbished all of government’s excuses for not holding local government elections since 1994 and urged that the polls be held at their earliest to help reinvigorate, democratize and motivate communities.

The AFC said it was horrified and embarrassed by Manickchand’s defenceless and unforgivable behavior. “The Alliance For Change wishes, in the strongest possible terms to disassociate itself from the statements made by the Honourable Minister as they clearly do not reflect the sentiments of the people of Guyana who have continuously expressed their support and gratitude for Ambassador Hardt in his unfailing and persistent efforts to advance the quality and way of life of all Guyanese,” said that party.

The AFC described Ambassador Hardt’s posting to Guyana as extremely positive and beneficial to the national good. “We take this opportunity to express our thanks to him and wish him the very best in his continued professional progress,” that party added.

The US Ambassador played down speculation that this latest public spat between him and the Guyana government would hurt relations between the two countries. “I don’t think it will have any effect,” he said, adding that the embassy would continue to work in several areas including public health, security and cultural exchanges to build a partnership towards a healthy, safe and strong Guyana.