Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge has sought to set the record straight regarding Guyana’s handling of its Honorary Consuls in various countries, making it clear that the volunteers are not employed by the Government of Guyana.
Minister Greenidge was making reference to an article in one of the local newspapers that reported that the Honorary Consul in Miami, Ramzan Roshanali, was allegedly being criticised by Guyanese in North America for inefficient service. However, Minister Greenidge explained that the post of Honorary Consul is voluntary, which means the officer is providing service based on the availability of their time.
The Minister made these comments at a press conference on Wednesday where he remarked Government is unable to direct the way Honorary Consuls conduct themselves while executing their functions.
In addition to minimising costs, Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister observed that most countries in the world utilise the service of Honorary Consuls to serve the needs of citizens in the foreign countries they reside. He further remarked that these persons are selected to work for free as opposed to Ambassadors and Consular Generals whose service and accommodation are funded by the State. He said Honorary Consuls are often business persons or professionals with the capacity to provide critical services such as renewal of passports, issuing of visas and life certificates among others.
“They get an honorarium depending on where they are. If an Ambassador earns $10,000 a month, and Honourary Consul may get a stipend to cover normal wear and tear costs; maybe telephone, that is not a tenth of what an Ambassador may earn because he’s not a full-time employee,” Minister Greenidge added.
In the last few days, reports surfaced in the media where the Honorary Consul in Miami, Florida, Ramzan Roshanali, was criticised after several disgruntled Guyanese raised concerns about the level of services offered by the Miami office. Among the complaints were that the building that houses the Consul’s office was ‘shabby looking’, coupled with poor service including no response to calls, and nor responses to messages left for Roshanali.
Members of the Diaspora also berated the fact that relatives of the consul are working in the office. However, Greenidge on Wednesday reminded that the Government solicits the assistance of the consul and as such cannot dictate who works for him since he is not fully employed by the Administration. He observed that often times the consuls already have their own businesses and additional sums would not have to be expended for the establishment of new office spaces.
“In terms of pay, you give them a stipend of US$500 to cover expenses unless the expenses are exceptional – that is not something to shout about,” Greenidge noted.
The Minister said that there are currently 29 Honorary Consuls and indicated that plans are afoot for the replacement of some consuls as well as increasing the number.