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– no longer credible facilitator in Guyana
Two Wednesdays ago (7th April) Leader of the Opposition, Joe Harmon and Khemraj Ramjattan, Deputy Representative of the A Partnership For National Unity + Alliance For Change List (APNU+AFC) and Leader of the AFC, met with United States (U.S) Ambassador Sarah Ann Lynch. The public was advised among issues drawn to the Ambassador’s attention were concerns about parliamentary democracy, governance and national security, which the Opposition requested be communicated to Washington D.C, given concerns the local media have been unhelpful in propagating their views.
The U.S 2020 Human Rights Report on Guyana addressed the role of the media which has not been complimentary and in fact supports the concerns of the coalition. It continues to be troubling that sections of the media stand accused by too many of seeking to selectively miniaturise or silence the voice of organisations and significant members of society. The media, which proudly tout its bonafides as the fourth estate, play a very important role in democratic societies.
The APNU+ AFC is a major political force, and based on the numbers declared by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) they are the political grouping that represents the interest of almost half the electorate. The People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) which GECOM declared received approximately 15,000 more votes than the coalition is no mightier a force, particularly given the contested nature of the results and the “grave irregularities” unearthed during the recount exercise as acknowledged by GECOM Chair.
The votes of the main opposition represent significant power and influence and should these voices be ignored by the media would not be good for Guyana. And whereas Harmon and Ramjattan entreaty to the Ambassador is noted, society has not forgotten the role said Ambassador played during the 2020 Election, that could have influenced the media’s present treatment of the coalition.
In politically divided societies the diplomatic community places premium on the wisdom of at least appearing apolitical. Such approach is necessary to safeguard being accused of taking sides, and with an eye on the role of the said community to serve as uniters or at least striving for that. Ambassador Lynch cannot be credited with the diplomatic finesse that has been customary of the U.S even during the Cold War period and previous internal political differences in Guyana. Her conduct during the election was a stark departure from her predecessors.
Admittedly some media houses have openly thrown down the gauntlet to the opposition, it needs not be forgotten that some of them are conscious they are operating in an environment of political fear and reprisals. Whereas some may outright despise the opposition and their supporters, whom they are ignoring are buyers of their newspapers, supporters of the businesses that advertise with them, including the government who collect their taxes, the threat to economic survival is real. The Irfaan Ali Government is displaying a vengeful approach to governing and acting as though they are seeking to stoke confrontation among and between groups.
And whereas objection is taken to those media houses that are marginalising the coalition, et al, there is doubt the Ambassador is unaware of what is happening. The political heads in Washington D.C have changed from a vindictive one akin to the Ali regime to leadership that has demonstrated a willingness to listen to all sides and respect alternative and dissenting views. Ambassador Lynch is yet to show recognition for the U.S new engagement policy and to advise her political allies in the Office of the President.
Ambassador Lynch is fully aware Ali is refusing to engage the constitutional Leader of the Opposition. There is also a view in some quarters that behind the scenes she is playing a role in shaping Guyana’s policies, local and external. It was the U.S Embassy that first issued a statement that Guyana had established diplomatic relations with Taiwan even before the Ali regime made the announcement. Outcries by the citizenry of the long established One China Policy and probably some behind the scenes arm twisting forced Guyana to recant the faux pas.
Guyanese remember Ambassador Lynch fraternising at a private Ali gathering even before he became president. People remember the plane ride to Essequibo Coast on Election Day, who comprised the team, and the Ambassador’s response when the information became public. Guyanese remember the Ambassador’s walk out from GECOM Region Four counting station on the alleged pretext the counting of the votes were not following the Court’s directive.
The deception was later proven by Anil Nandall in his withdrawal of the case for lack of sufficient evidence and acting Chief Justice (CJ) Roxane George-Wiltshire admonishing him. In that June 2020 judgement, CJ chided Nandlall for bringing a case before her, knowing he had “thin evidence,” and wasting the court’s time. The Ambassador never apologised to Guyanese for allowing herself, and by extension the U.S, to be misled in one of Guyana’s most political contentious and divisive issues. The APNU+AFC may be better off looking for external avenues to get its views to Washington or be directly informed should there be any major change in U.S Policy decisions on Guyana. Ambassador Sarah Ann Lynch has compromised herself and is no longer considered a credible facilitator in Guyana and between Guyana and Washington D.C. There is doubt going through the U.S Embassy, whilst she presides, Washington will hear the Opposition’s views or vice versa. (The views expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily that of this newspaper)