Guyana’s opportunity to be int’l leader being squandered – FIU academic

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…by election crisis, threats of sanctions & illegitimate Govt

In January of this year, Guyana was the Chair of the G-77 and was considered the world’s top source of oil finds for 2019. Fast forward to now and Guyana finds itself under international pressure and the threat of sanctions to conduct its own election in keeping with democratic principles.

Wazim Mowla, a Guyanese American academic and researcher in African and African Diaspora Studies at Florida International University, posited in a recent missive from Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Global Americans that Guyana was wasting the advantageous position it held prior to the 2020 election controversy.

“Before its political crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic – which is (likely) to worsen the country’s economic situation –Guyana was positioned to assume key hemispheric and international leadership roles due to oil discoveries off its coast and its subsequent oil wealth.

“The oil discoveries set the stage for Guyana to use its newfound wealth and influence to play an increased role in the Region and globally. Currently, Guyana is the Chair of the Group of 77, a forum within the United Nations it could use to enhance its standing as a spokesperson for the developing world,” Mowla said.

Wazim Mowla

However, he pointed out that Guyana has now become subsumed in controversy over its election results – over a month after they were held. Mowla pointed out that election observers from around the world have said that the tabulation process done by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) lacked credibility.

This is compounded by the warnings from several Governments, including the United States’, that officials could face sanctions if President David Granger is sworn in based on this questionable process.

“Guyana’s international possibilities have been hampered by its domestic politics. At a time when the Guyanese Government should capitalise on the international attention it’s receiving to bolster the country’s image, the current political instability is taking the focus off of its newfound influence.

“The focus will continue to shift with an illegitimate government in place, and it will strip Guyana of its chance to promote its own narrative. If this is the case, Western countries are likely to categorise Guyana as a pariah state, like Venezuela,” he stated.

This, according to Mowla, will hurt Guyana’s chances to acquire Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), forge bi-lateral partnerships with other countries, and obtain future leadership roles in regional and international organisations.

Mowla noted that the crisis also has implications for Guyana’s case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which postponed its adjudication of Guyana’s border controversy with Venezuela following the coronavirus outbreak.

“International questioning of Guyana’s Government is especially important as the country heads to the International Court of Justice… Guyana cannot afford to risk its international approval as it will be vital if the current Venezuelan regime does not agree with the ICJ’s final ruling, should it favour Guyana.”

Nor is Guyana the only country likely to be affected by sanctions. With the promise of oil wealth, there was also the likelihood of Guyana becoming the regional economic powerhouse. This could have led to Guyana being a powerful regional advocate.

“The Region is facing herculean challenges, such as climate change, crime, asymmetries with the United States and China, and now the COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of these problems, Guyana’s new oil and gas wealth – and the strength that wealth provides –gives it the capacity to lead regional cohesion in promoting the Caribbean’s interests, thus bringing international attention to a consistently overlooked region.

“With a region representing 14 votes at the OAS, and in other international institutions, a unified Caribbean could become more effective in advocating for, and receiving, better attention to its pressing issues. However, this is going to prove difficult if an illegitimate government takes power in Guyana,” he stated.

He noted that Caribbean Governments that choose to recognise an illegitimate government would also come under international scrutiny and hamper their own chances of aid. According to him, the withdrawal of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) delegation and subsequent statements from Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, on the issue are worrisome. As many have done, Mowla attributed much of the responsibility for fixing the mess Guyana is in to the President.

“Guyana cannot afford to end up isolated, especially with falling oil prices and potential suspensions from the OAS and the Commonwealth… There are local and regional leaders that are committed to a transparent electoral process in Guyana.

“Even so, the decision is ultimately that of President Granger. If Guyana can assure the March elections are credible, it will have the revenue, the will, and the support of the Caribbean to become a leading voice in the hemisphere,” the academic posited.