Rohee walks out over 'backtrack' jibe
Stabroek News
February 7, 2004

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Minister of Foreign Trade and International Co-operation, Clement Rohee walked out of a Foreign Relations Commit-tee meeting yesterday in protest at PNCR comments that he went to a Mexican summit `backtrack'.

Rohee whose US visa is still to be processed had to travel through Venezuela on his way to the special Summit of the Americas held in Monterrey, Mexico.

At the PNCR press conference on Thursday, MP Jerome Khan said the refusal of the US to grant Rohee a visa had forced him to go 'backtrack' to the summit.

According to a statement from the Government Information Agency (GINA) Rohee said he regretted that he could not participate in the meeting of the Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. Khan sits on the committee.

Rohee told the chairperson the phrase `backtrack' was popularly used in Guyana to describe illegal activity in either travelling from Guyana and to certain countries without regard to valid travel documents. Khan, according to Rohee, used the phrase without qualifying it and therefore it must be taken that he intended to convey that he engaged in illegal activities in travelling to Mexico.

But Khan told this newspaper yesterday that there was no need for him to qualify his statement, when it was made at his party's press conference. Khan noted that Rohee could not travel the normal route to the US.

Khan said it was still top secret as to how Rohee got to Mexico, noting that it was reasonable to conclude that it would have cost taxpayers more.

Khan said his use of the word `backtrack' was a metaphor to describe a way of travel that was unusual.

"I am surprised that Rohee could not draw the distinction between my role as a PNCR member and a member of the parliamentary sectoral committee on foreign relations."

Khan also declared that Rohee could not dictate to the National Assembly or the PNCR who sits on the foreign relations committee and deemed his walkout as being in contempt of Article 119B of the Constitution which empowers the sectoral committees to hold hearings.

GINA quoted the minister as saying, "Madam chairperson, I would like to say quite categorically that I have the utmost respect for this committee and its work which I believe will greatly enhance governance and transparency in Guyana."

He added that he did not mean to be disrespectful when he said he could not participate in a meeting with Khan or with a committee of which Khan was a member.

GINA also said the US Ambassador, Roland Bullen and Head of the Consular Division of the US Embassy, David Shenstead have both stated that Rohee was not denied a US visa, but that his application was awaiting approval from Washington. (See other story on page 12.)