British Foreign Minister to head high-level team to Guyana By Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
January 8, 2002

`We do not want the forum to be a talking shop, it's got to be direct and frank in order to get the job done...' - British High Commissioner, Mr. Edward Glover

GUYANA is gearing to host for the first time a high-powered British Government team comprising five Ministers and headed by Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Jack Straw.

The team, which will represent the British Government at the third UK-Caribbean forum to be hosted here April 3-5, includes Minister in the Foreign Office with responsibility for the Caribbean and Africa, Guyanese-born, Baroness Amos; Baroness Scotland, ranked second in the Lord Chancellor's Department in London; Junior Minister in the Department of International Development, Hilary Benn and subject to confirmation, Angela Eagle, Minister in the Home Office with responsible for drugs issues.

British High Commissioner, Mr. Edward Glover, said yesterday the United Kingdom was looking forward to "direct and frank" discussions to boost its unique relations with the Caribbean.

Foreign Minister, Mr. Rudy Insanally last week said physical preparations were in train to provide for the high-level UK delegation, as well as a number of Foreign Ministers expected to attend from other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.

Speaking on preparations for the visit and forum, Glover referred to the establishment of a Ministerial Task Force following a visit and meeting last year by Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair with Caribbean leaders in The Bahamas.

He noted that a report submitted by the body on which Baroness Amos was Blair's personal representative, following an examination of the relationship between the UK and the Caribbean, found that there was virtually no field in which cooperation does not exist between Britain and the Caribbean.

The task force, however, recommended that in addition to the UK-Caribbean forum, convened every two years, Heads of Government of the Caribbean and the UK need to meet regularly to establish a clear framework to guide relations.

According to the High Commissioner, the report also identified key areas such as security and law enforcement to counter the threats of drugs and crime, economic development and trade, HIV/AIDS, environment, culture and education, in which cooperation can be strengthened.

He said that because Britain believes that in those areas "lie the heart of the issues common to the UK and the Caribbean", the UK does not want the forum to be only a talking shop, and pledged the High Commission's support to the Guyana Foreign Ministry in ensuring that the forum is a success.

"The UK wants the discussion to be an open and frank debate on issues in order to get to the heart of the matter about what needs to be done to follow the agenda. We do not want the forum to be a talking shop, it's got to be direct and frank in order to get the job done and therefore put a great deal more muscle in the unique UK/Caribbean relationship at the start of the 21st Century," he said.

On this note he referred to a remark by Baroness Amos during a visit to The Bahamas shortly before the Christmas holidays, that Britain cares about the Caribbean, adding that the composition of the team underlines that commitment.

Blair, he added, has previously reminded that talking about issues does not serve the purpose and that the UK and the Caribbean need "to get to the heart of the issues to see what's best for the relationship, so as to confront the difficult issues."

It is for this reason that there needs to be "positive and constructive" discussions, he said, adding that the success of the forum is the identification that many problems in this region are common to Guyana.

The High Commissioner, who commended Guyana on accepting to host the forum, viewing it as a tremendous opportunity to step forward for a country soon to assume the chairmanship of CARICOM, noted that Guyana and the UK, in addition to sharing historical links, have similarities in heritage, democracy, rule of law, common systems of education, social services and the justice system.

Britain also subscribes to the same values and in many cases share the same problems of modernisation, he said, pointing out that more than often, problems in Guyana can be identified in different communities of the UK.