Guyana Chronicle
August 22, 2004

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A RECENT Stabroek News editorial is but another pseudo-analysis of President Bharrat Jagdeo's performance as Head of State. The editorial column is known for its occasional misrepresentation of this Presidency and the PPP/Civic alliance, as a whole. The reasons are myriad, but certainly not devoid of political and other motives. This most recent unfair and distorted representation of President Jagdeo's hard work and pro-activeness to better the life of all Guyanese comes as no surprise.

This is an expected riposte to the exposure of Stabroek News' unfair and imbalanced reporting of Government-related issues. It is not my place to dictate the editorial slant or political preference of the handlers and owners of the Stabroek News. (Remember, it was the PPP/C which restored press and other freedoms).

However, I do reserve the right to point out instances of unfair and imbalanced reporting and shoddy analysis/editorialising in the interest of full public understanding of national policies.

The achievements of President Jagdeo's brief stewardship of Guyana, so far, cover every aspect of development, including those highlighted in the editorial. Fairness and balance would have been served had the Stabroek News seen it fit to carry the entire Report Card of the Presidency issued by the Government Information Agency in March of this year. To deliberately just name a few accomplishments and say that was `good,' but then fill the rest of the editorial with a one-sided presentation of issues smacks as another piece of biased political comment.

Let me illustrate.

The editorial refers to the `outbreak of criminal violence on the East Coast of Demerara'. Reference is made to the inadequacies of the security forces, `death squads' and `ministerial crisis' allegations. No comment was made on the PNCR politically-inspired crime wave (which the Stabroek News had itself commented on in the height of the crime spree); the President and his government giving priority attention to the crime fight; the substantial resources and support for law enforcement agencies; the bold legislative anti-crime measures that the opposition parties, led by the PNCR, rejected; and the impact of deportees and new forms of crimes sweeping the Caribbean region. Also, there is a complete ignoring of the incident when Guyana refused to accept criminal deportees' and government officials were sanctioned.

The Stabroek News seems unconcerned about the plight of victims and the more than 20 law enforcement ranks who were victims of the criminals. The President's commitment to the safety and security of Guyanese is unquestionable. An example, compare the current budgetary allocation to the Guyana Police Force with the 1992 amount.

The Guyana Police Force today, benefits from training and other forms of assistance from friendly countries. Also, the President's most recent outreach to Berbice to address the scourge of crime and his public indication of an impending menu of additional anti-crime measures are testimony that public safety and security continue to be a priority of his Administration.

On the issue of Guyana's relations with Suriname and the border issue, the Stabroek News commits a grave sin of omission by not mentioning the bold and certainly nationally supported steps aimed at resolving long-standing disputes and strengthening Guyana's territorial integrity.

It would be useful to note that the Government of Guyana undertook a series of diplomatic initiatives aimed at peacefully resolving the Guyana/Suriname dispute. Bilateral discussions were convened with the Government of the Republic of Suriname. When these failed to make the desired progress, the Government of Guyana requested the intervention of CARICOM. Guyana has endeavoured to exhaust the avenues for a negotiated settlement of the dispute.

Foreign Minister S.R. Insanally visited Paramaribo in June 2001 and January 2002. The Suriname Foreign Minister was invited to Guyana in January 2002. Guyana initiated the reconvening of the Joint Meetings of the Border Commissions of the two countries in January 2002 and President Jagdeo paid a State Visit to the neighbouring republic at the end of that month. During his visit, President Jagdeo succeeded in encouraging the Surinamese to accept the proposal that a mechanism be established to look at best practices and modalities that could assist the Governments in the taking of a decision regarding an eventual joint exploration for hydrocarbons in the area in dispute. In spite of Guyana's best efforts, Suriname stymied the discussions. Guyana was therefore in a position demonstrate to the international community that it had exhausted the available processes for a negotiated resolution of the dispute and therefore took the issue to the International Tribunal under the law of the Sea Convention for binding arbitration. The Government of Guyana patiently sought to have the issue settled peacefully. At the same time, President Jagdeo was determined to ensure that the ground work was prepared to ensure that there could be a binding and definitive resolution of the maritime dispute.

This process was started in February 2004. The people of Guyana could be assured that the Government of Guyana is determined to ensure that Guyana's interests are not only safeguarded but that the resources in the area will be exploited for their benefit. This is going to be one of the more important foreign policy legacies of the present administration.

And what about the many arrangements recently entered to strengthen our border policy with our neighbours. The historic visit by the President of Venezuela, the first by a Venezuelan Head of State in over a decade, has given political impetus to the relations. With Brazil, there continues to be a host of active cooperation agreements and activities.

A significant omission was the Guyana-Barbados Exclusive Economic Zone cooperation agreement which impact on our maritime interests. Also, there is no mention of the fact that under this Commander-in-Chief the Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard was never so equipped in its history.

I will continue to debunk the misrepresentations of this editorial next week.