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Luncheon, Granger differ on attack on US Ambassador

President Donald Ramotar and Opposition Leader David Granger (GINA photo)

Opposition Leader, David Granger and Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon were Friday at odds over whether outgoing United States (US) Ambassador, Brent Hardt’s stance on  local government elections amounted to interference in Guyana’s internal affairs.

Granger disagreed that the American diplomat’s words and behavior violated normal diplomatic practice.  He believed that Hardt’s views and those of the US State Department that having local government elections were universal. “Everybody outside of the PPP has been calling for Local Government Elections. I don’t think that there is any intervention. It is normal. It is normal for a democratic country to have elections and it is abnormal for us not to have election for 17 years,” added Granger.

Granger predicted that the “crass and vulgar” incident in which diplomatic channels were not used to resolve differences would not improve cordiality. “You don’t conduct international relations with that sort of language and using a public forum for that purpose so it is counterproductive,” he said. After delivering her remarks, Manickchand and Presidential Advisor on Governance, Gail Teixeira walked out of the reception.

Against the background of Acting Foreign Minister, Priya Manickchand being booed during her stinging criticism of Hardt at Wednesday’s US Independence Day reception at his residence,  Granger observed that the response of persons at the reception indicated the support for the Ambassador’s position.

The Guyana government on Friday stuck by its position, saying it was an opportune moment ahead of Hardt’s departure on Sunday June 6, 2014. Government spokesman, Roger Luncheon said Friday that the envoy intervened in Guyana’s affairs.

Luncheon condemned Granger for failing to put the national interest first in the face of Hardt’s remarks that he said amount to interference in Guyana’s internal affairs and violation of its sovereignty.  “For the opposition to be talking about vulgar, I wonder who determines this vulgarity. They said nothing of substance after the US Ambassador’s tirade on Monday. Even a weakened patriot in the body politic with such pretenses as theirs would have been tempted to say something even anonymous but not Mr. Granger and his ilk,” he said.

The Head of the Presidential Secretariat said that Granger and his ilk, sitting in the Office of the Opposition Leader at the “State’s expense”, suddenly he and others mustered the strength to be heard when Hardt was “treated with a fitting response.”

Luncheon said Manickchand’s speech was compiled and edited at the Office of the President after culling various views from the President, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General and others.  “ It is really a reflection of the considered opinion of a number of the stakeholders and interests,” said Luncheon.

The chief government spokesman said Ambassador Hardt’s remarks  on the poor excuses by government, the President and the ruling Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) for not holding local government elections since 1994 cumulatively triggered government’s harsh response