Sunday, September 14, 2008


Kaieteur News. September 14, 2008 | By knews | Filed Under Features / Columnists, Peeping Tom

The developed civilizations of the West have always prided themselves in their record-keeping. Bureaucracy and its paper-keeping remain features of western civilizations despite the many destructive wars and battles that have caused so much destruction in those parts of the world.

Great empires have fallen but what has never been diminished was the preoccupation with record-keeping and especially the need to preserve for history the minutest of details.

The archives of Europe have an unmatched collection of records, not only chronicling its long and violent past but also equally reprehensible and brutal colonization of the New World.

It was to these records of treaties, maps and agreements that the high level team which argued Guyana’s case before the Law of the Sea Convention went in preparing their brief.

It is doubtful whether without access to these resources, preserved in Europe, that Guyana would have been able to have emerged with such a convincing case.

That we did is a tribute to the team, to their understanding of international law and to the sources which they could rely on to support Guyana’s case in its maritime border dispute with Suriname.

Record-keeping, especially diplomatic note-keeping, is of vital service to history. Each year hundreds of top secret and previously classified files are made public.

These provide a lasting account, adding to our knowledge, helping to revise or confirm history, always extremely useful.

The release of records now also includes transcripts of official telephone conversations between top government officials in the US.

One such release provides an account of how amused the Americans were of the Guyanese administration in the early seventies.

It gave a sense of the overall esteem with which our government was held despite the convenience of a relationship occasioned by common Cold War interests. To the historian, even the finest details are something to be valued.

The notes of what at the time may seem to be the most unimportant of meetings unravel a great deal about the period.

When it comes to diplomatic exchanges, however, no meeting is unimportant. Every encounter presents an opportunity to gain deeper insights.

Beneath the fineries of diplomatic language are to be found the crucible of motivations and intent.
For this reason, diplomatic note-taking is vital for both the present and forthcoming generations.

The Brazilians, who recently along with their ambassador paid a visit to our Head of State, appreciate the utmost importance of detailing what was said at that meeting because the record of such meetings have both historic and legal significance.

At the meeting with our President, clips of which were shown on national television, there was a member of the Brazilian delegation taking detailed notes of what was being said. This was no ordinary courtesy call. This was a meeting between our Head of State and a visiting delegation.

Yet, as we have seen on so many occasions in the past, and for some inexplicable reason, our President met alone with the delegation.

Not even the Minister of Foreign Affairs was present. But more regrettable, there was no official note-taker for Guyana.

Any official record of that most important meeting will now have to come from the Brazilians. And if in the future there are differing interpretations of what was said at that meeting, there will be only one written source, the Brazilians’.

The Jagdeo administration continues to ignore these important protocols in diplomatic exchanges.

It is tragic for a government which when it took over office could not find the minutes of Cabinet meetings to continue after sixteen years in power to not appreciate the importance of diplomatic protocols, one of which is the need for someone to be present taking notes. It reveals a great deal about how this country is managed. It is sad indeed.

But none more sad than last Thursday’s press conference, which ended by the President asking the coterie of reporters whether they had any more questions.

Once again, our President was forced to chair his own press conference. There is no precedent anywhere for something like this.

It is unacceptable that the President of Guyana should not have someone to moderate his press conferences and briefings.

I can just see a historian fifty years into the future being bemused by all of this. I can just imagine the numerous light-hearted references that will be made.

Let us hope that now that there is an appreciation that you cannot simply announce the appointment of an ambassador - that there are diplomatic protocols to be followed, including gaining the approval of the foreign country to which the ambassador will be assigned - that we will see a marked improvement in the way diplomatic engagements are treated.

Let us hope that in the future whenever a foreign diplomatic team has to visit our Head of State and Head of Government, that Guyana will not have a singular presence at that meeting.

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