Affirming Guyana’s sovereignty, self-respect and national dignity
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EVENTUALLY, it had to be said—we are a sovereign country. We refer here to a statement from the government via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirming our country’s sovereignty and all that comes with it. The statement, of course, responds to the numerous declarations in relation to the March 2 elections that have come from our friends and partners in the international community. Even for a country as generous and tolerant as we are, it has to be said that some of those declarations could only be seen as “talking down” to our country. While some partisans may opportunistically turn a blind eye to them, that does not erase the feeling of disrespect that is collectively felt.

For most of the last four weeks, Guyanese have had to endure the embarrassment of having to read or listen to statement after statement from representatives of some of the ABCE countries that give the impression that we are still a colonial outpost. Some of those statements may have done tremendous damage to our image as a democratic country governed by the rule of law. We are quite aware that we live in a world that is still interconnected and interdependent as it was during the era of colonialism. We therefore reject the view that external forces should not have been invited to observe our recent elections. But unlike the colonial era, countries such as Guyana are now free and independent countries with the right to self-determination.

We are also very aware that despite the increase of independent countries, the disparity in power still exists and that this phenomenon greatly informs international relations. That powerful countries still act with impunity against less powerful countries is a given. But even in such circumstances there is the expectation that universal principles of fairness, respect and morality would temper the urge to over-reach. Countries such as Guyana which have endured the whip of bondage at the hands of those who manipulated the world in search of wealth and glory are invariably sensitive to the slightest scent of domination.

From the birth of our independent nation in the belly of the Cold War and in a world that was not made for us, we have attempted to balance our sovereignty with a respect for those who once colonised us. Our foreign policy has been partly driven by a humanism that is grounded in the biblical notion of forgiveness. To be human is to be forgiving and vice versa. It is the reason for our strong bonds of friendship with the USA and the countries of Europe. We are obviously eternally grateful for the assistance that has flowed from those countries as we navigated the turbulent waters of post-colonialism. But we have always insisted that despite our economic poverty and underdevelopment, we are a country of self-respecting human beings. Centuries of bondage have not diminished our appetite for human dignity.

We pen the above sentiments not as mere statements of nationalist anti-imperialist feelings of a bygone era, but to speak up for our people at home and abroad. We continue to respectfully believe that the strident messages emanating from representatives of these countries, including the threat of sanctions, amount to a pre-judgement of the results of an election which in the final analysis can only be seen as an attempt to influence the eventual outcome. No self-respecting country, including the ones making the offending statements, would and should allow such intimate involvement in their internal process.

In the final analysis, Guyana is a sovereign country, which, in spite of our internal difficulties, is still a country of laws and the rule of law. This is clearly demonstrated by the manner in which the courts have conducted themselves as we sort out the impasse before us. It is therefore injurious to our national reputation when the rest of the world is being given the impression that there is a breakdown of the rule of law. We, therefore, in love and camaraderie, appeal to our partners to tone town down the rhetoric and let us work through this latest challenge within the ambit of our sovereignty. This quotation from the statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is worth repeating: “For the benefit of all international partners and friends, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to affirm that Guyana remains a sovereign state governed by the rule of law.”

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