Foreign Affairs Minister Insanally has had to endure some indignities
Stabroek News
February 6, 2002

Dear Editor,

The appointment of Ambassador Rudy Insanally as Foreign Minister in the post March 2001 PPP/C cabinet was an attempt by the political administration to check and, hopefully reverse the succession of foreign policy (particularly frontiers policy) mishaps (notably Suriname's eviction by force of the CGX oil rig and Venezuela's torpedoing of the Beal Spaceport Deal) that occurred under the watch of his predecessor.

Given his vast and varied diplomatic experience (Insanally has been in the Guyana Foreign Service since 1966 and served as Guyana's Ambassador to Venezuela for about six years) his appointment was the correct one in the circumstances. Conversely, the de coupling of the responsibilities of Foreign Trade and International Economic Co operation from the Foreign Affairs portfolio was a political contrivance arising out of the necessity to offer continued but alternative cabinet accommodation to a stalwart of the ruling party whose retention in the Foreign Affairs portfolio could not be justified.

True, Foreign Trade and International Co operation have become more weighty and specialised responsibilities in a globalised international society and have been decoupled from the Foreign Affairs portfolio in many countries. No such considerations informed that occurrence in Guyana. It occurred purely out of political necessity.

As Foreign Affairs Minister Ambassador Insanally has had to endure assorted indignities. It will be recalled that he was originally appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Office of the President, in effect a junior ministerial portfolio. This writer has no recollection of a subsequent change in that status. Secondly, his predecessor, the incumbent Foreign Trade and International Economic Co operation Minister continues to occupy the fourth floor of Takuba Lodge.

Trite though the accommodation issue may seem to the uninitiated it is, in diplomatic terms, a considerable indignity. Consider, for example, the impact on the office of Secretary of State of the United States were General Colin Powell, for no apparent reason, to be reassigned to lesser office accommodation in the Department of State and another cabinet official installed in the office of the Secretary of State. The new accommodation arrangements at Takuba Lodge would almost certainly have impacted on perceptions within the local diplomatic community regarding the stature of the portfolio of Minister of Foreign Affairs.

After several months without any eye catching accomplishment (it is true that foreign policy accomplishments are not always eye catching) the Foreign Minister has made an important mark on frontiers policy, the discipline that is his primary responsibility. His recent diplomatic engagements with neighbouring Suriname laid the foundation for a cordial official visit there by President Jagdeo.

These accomplishments, of course, are strictly limited ones. The return of the CGX oil rig to Guyana's maritime waters would have been a resounding triumph, though, in the circumstances, that would have been too much to hope for. When one considers, however, that Guyana and Suriname were on the brink of armed hostilities less than two years ago, the Foreign Minister's achievements were considerable. Further, the results of his engagements with Suriname are an important departure from the succession of frontiers policy setbacks that preceded his appointment.

Will the office of Foreign Minister now be accorded its rightful status? Will the Foreign Minister now be removed (literally) from the shadow of his predecessor? Will he finally be allowed to begin the process of reversing the retrogression in the ministry? Will he be afforded the resources to properly equip it for the numerous negotiating engagements with Suriname and Venezuela that must surely lie ahead?

Recent events surely compel the administration to undertake a radical departure from previous foreign policy practices.

Yours faithfully,

Conrad J. Griffith