`Stop picking at old wounds'- outgoing British envoy urges Guyanese

By Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
February 17, 1998

Britain's High Commissioner to Guyana Mr David Johnson, in a farewell interview has said his five-year stint was a period of exciting development in many fields.

Mr Johnson who leaves for Britain this week, on retirement from the diplomatic service, said the all-round growth of the economy is impressive and its benefits have rubbed off on the lives of many Guyanese in several parts of the country.

In a reference to the post election happenings, the British diplomat said he had thought that Guyana had advanced from the 1993-1994 period, but was shocked and dismayed at the events in late December and early January. As a result the diplomatic community had to re-assess the political situation.

He disagreed with those who had contended that the post election happenings had set Guyana back a decade. "What took place in December showed how fragile is the democratic process in Guyana and the need for Guyanese to be educated as to what it means to live in a democratic society...", the British High Commissioner added.

He feels that if the audit exercise comes out well, it would provide an opportunity for Guyanese to turn a new leaf and move on...While acknowledging that the democratic process had been shaken, he is confident that it could be restored once people think positively as to where Guyana should be going.

While race has been identified as a factor in hindering development, the British diplomat emphasised that the Guyanese people should stop picking at old wounds ....Guyanese must get over this and accept that certain things did happen and be prepared to look at ways in which the ethnic divisions of Guyana can be made to merge.

The British High Commissioner had some harsh words for the local media especially the electronic media before, during and after the December general elections.

He said there was a lack of objectivity, professionalism and fundamental training and nothing much was done to put in people's minds the need for a peaceful solution to what had taken place.
According to the British diplomat there were too many unsubstantiated allegations and in the case of the electronic media when people called in to state their views, and these were not conducive to the programmes' particular political outlook, the callers were cut off...."that is not professional..."
In his half hour interview on the Demico House sponsored weekend One on One programme broadcast on the GTV channel eleven, Mr Johnson spoke about the media's role in a democracy, the importance of dialogue between the People's Progressive Party/Civic government and the minority People's National Congress, racial harmony and the need for constitutional reform in Guyana.

The programme will be rebroadcast on GTV at 5:30 tomorrow afternoon.