Harmon distances govt from Information Chief’s criticism of Indian govt

Last Updated on Friday, 12 January 2018, 18:24 by Denis Chabrol

Imran Khan

The Director of the Guyana government’s Department of Public Information, Imran Khan’s claim that India deliberately excluded Guyana government Indo-Guyanese parliamentarians from participating in a conference of persons of Indian origin was Friday rejected by the government.

“I have seen the article in the newspaper and what I would say is that it does not represent the position of the government. We have excellent relations with India and we continue to work on those relations. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement which  we have with that country and we would like to work to ensure that it gets better,” Minister of State, Joseph Harmon told a news conference.

His position came two days after Khan appeared to have refused a request  by Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence for him to remove the offending post on his personal Facebook profile. Instead, Khan continued to post content from other sources to bolster his contention that India has a history of dominating Africans.

“Since my initial post on the issue I have witnessed a blinding ignorance on the part of many who commented without having any, or extremely little understanding of what has been transpiring in India in recent years. India has essayed naked hegemonic ambitions and the Hindu fundamentalist campaign is in full flow and, it would appear as though it is not restricted to within the borders of India as we know it.

For those who wildly commented and displayed their magnificent ignorance of world affairs I invite you to watch this Al Jazeera documentary on the issue and consider the implications for Guyana and what the real motive behind the lopsided invitation to Guyanese parliamentarians could very well be, and more specifically why the high-ranking parliamentarians on the government side were deliberately excluded,” said Khan who is of mixed Indo and Afro-Guyanese ancestry.

It all began Wednesday when Khan questioned whether the Indian government’s decision to invite the 23 People’s Progressive Party (PPP) parliamentarians of Indian origin was aimed at destabilising the coalition-led administration. He then went on to contend that the second highest ranking government official of Indian origin outside India,  Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo was not invited to the conference.

Khan and Nagamootoo are senior members of the Alliance For Change (AFC), while Harmon and Lawrence are senior members of the People’s National Congress Reform-dominated A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).

Harmon said much control could be exercised called on government functionaries to “exercise a certain amount of restraint in putting out information there which are your personal opinions”.

The State Minister labelled Khan’s Facebook post an “aberration rather than the norm” in which one is a government officer who expresses a personal view.

Harmon said Prime Minister Nagamootoo was examining the matter and he would be making a statement.

The Minister said an invitation was made to Parliament and government Chief Whip, Amna Ally was later engaged by the Indian High Commissioner. Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira was also said to be part of the process in selecting participants.

Hours earlier on Friday, Khan held on tenaciously to his position that no Guyana government minister was invited, unlike Jamaica whose Attorney General. “Marlene Malahoo-Forte is Attorney General and an elected member of the Jamaica Parliament and a ranking member of Cabinet. She was invited to and attended the Persons of Indian Origin Parliamentarians Conference in New Delhi, India. No Minister from Guyana was invited. Only non-minister MPs were invited from Guyana. Why the double standard”.

India’s High Commissioner to Guyana, Mahalingam Venkatachalam has already explained that top Guyana government officials and the Guyana High Commission in India were aware that 23 parliamentarians and three mayors were invited and the rationale behind inviting only those Persons of Indian Origin MPs who are not Ministers. “Hence reckless comments on such a serious issue on social media with the clear intention to mislead the general public by none other than Director of Public Information is unfortunate, irresponsible, unprofessional and to say the least, mischievous given the excellent bilateral relations being enjoyed by both India and Guyana and the ongoing friendly cooperation in various multilateral fora,” the High Commissioner said.

Khan has since lashed back, maintaining his position and questioning the motive behind excluding government ministers. He vowed not to be silenced on the issue. “While I thank His Excellency Mahalingham for taking the time to respond to the questions I posed, I humbly submit that his offering does not pass muster and he has been unfortunately evasive to a considerable extent.

The impositions for qualification to the delegation is politically and culturally insensitive, improper and suspicious. The high ranking members of the Guyana government may not wish to comment but as a citizen of this country I am offended and raised the questions I have here on my personal page. Those citizens who wish to be non-controversial and remain in the good graces of the diplomatic community may shy away. Such has never been my nature,” the Director of government’s Department of Public Information said.