Georgetown, Guyana – (February 20, 2020) President David Granger, today, commissioned the Ramphal House, which houses the Foreign Service Institute, in honour of Guyana’s distinguished diplomat and former Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sir Shridath Ramphal.
President Granger, in his remarks, said the study of Guyana’s international relations, the understanding of the national interest and the practice of diplomacy should not be left to chance.
He said a State’s foreign policy represents the guiding principles and objectives in projecting its sovereignty within the global community.
The President said Guyana is proud of its foreign service, the service of its diplomats and that the country’s prestige in the international community has been enhanced by its pursuit of an enlightened foreign policy.
In this regard, he noted that Sir Shridath is Guyana’s most distinguished global statesman and his stewardship and service to the citizens and homeland, and his role as an inveterate integrationist are incontestable.
“Sir Shridath continues to serve his country with distinction. He was a key member of the Guyana team, which successfully argued the country’s case before the Tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). He is still providing advisory services to the Government of Guyana, employing his expertise and experience in the international affairs. Guyana is eternally grateful for his inestimable contributions to building our Republic. The Cooperative Republic of Guyana considers it fitting that this Institute, dedicated to educating our country’s cadets and diplomats, should be named after Shridath Ramphal, one of the architects of Guyana’s foreign relations,” the Head of State said.
The President said it was his intention, when he assumed office in May 2015, for Guyana to recapture the exceptional standards for which it was known and respected for in the past, especially in the Public Service and the Foreign Service.
“The re-establishment of the Foreign Service Institute and re-dedication to Sir Shridath Ramphal will contribute to the edification of a corps of competent diplomats to advance
the national interest. There is no place for mediocrity within the Foreign Service. The Institute will help to equip our young people with the art, craft, knowledge and skills expected of the country’s diplomats. The commissioning of this Institute is a fitting way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our Republic. The Institute will ensure a professional and competent Foreign Service. Nothing less will be expected of an institution which bears the name of an exemplar of high standards and intellect. Nothing less will be expected from Ramphal House,” he said.
The President said the mission of actualising the state’s foreign policy is entrusted, principally, to its Foreign Service and diplomats are of vital importance to small states which lack the economic, geographic and strategic power to impose their will on other states in the contentious and confrontational theatre of international relations. Therefore, he said, small states must pursue their national interest mainly through diplomacy.
“The practice of diplomacy is increasing in scope and complexity. International negotiations now cover a wide spectrum of fields most of which often require specialised and technical expertise. Traversing this treacherous territory cannot be left to the unschooled and uncommitted. Diplomacy requires a corps of educated and dedicated diplomats. A professional Foreign Service, possessing a proficient cadre of career diplomats, is obligatory for the promotion and protection of a state’s national interest. The national interest, however defined, refers to the principles and objectives which a state seeks to promote and protect, in its relationship with other states. The national interest has practical application. It forms the basis of a state’s foreign relations,” he added.
President Granger noted that the state has an obligation to articulate a cogent and coherent foreign policy and to identify the foundational elements of its national interest and Guyana’s diplomats have a duty to protect the country’s citizens, the country itself and the Caribbean community.
The foundations of Guyana’s foreign policy, the Head of State said, were laid in the early years after Independence and the process began to establish a Foreign Service. The President said the young state facilitated the entry of some of the best minds into the Foreign Service directed by Prime Minister Forbes Burnham who held the portfolio of Minister of External Affairs, and superintended by Sir Shridath, the then Minister of State for External Affairs.
This talented team, he said, not only built a foreign service from scratch but, also, crafted a foreign policy which enabled the young state to ward off the early challenges to its territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Guyana, he said, must continue to showcase the diplomatic standards that were the hallmark of the country in the early periods.
“The first decade since assuming full responsibility for our country’s external relations was Guyana’s ‘golden age’ of diplomacy. Republican status in 1970 saw the extension of relations with other countries, including socialist states, the recognition of the People’s Republic of China and the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba. Guyana was a loud voice within the Non-Aligned Movement; an uncompromising advocate for ending apartheid in South Africa and a fervent supporter of the African liberation struggles. The Republic, by the second decade of the life of Independence, could boast of being a founder of the Caribbean Community; of having hosted the First Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Non-Aligned States in the western hemisphere; of being elected to the Security Council twice; of having its acclaimed sons elected to the Presidency of the General Assembly; the International Court of Justice; as Secretary General of the United Nations; Presidency of the United Nations Council for Namibia,” he said.
Sir Shridath, in his remarks said the establishment of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was to ensure that control of external affairs was removed from Government House to the Ministry and under local control. He reminisced on his days of becoming Minister of State for External Affairs and dealing with the territorial threats by Venezuela as a newly independent state.
“Foreign Affairs was now wholly a Guyana prerogative and a full-fledged Ministry was born, which grew into Takuba Lodge. On independence, Prime Minister Burnham took the portfolio of Foreign Affairs and before long, I was yoked to him as Minister of State for External Affairs, working closely with him in that capacity was an exhilarating experience. As a new state, small state set across uncharted seas, facing not only winds but storm clouds of an unfriendly neighbour. That challenge from Venezuela was to be the making of Guyana. As we saw it, our very existence was on line and we needed the international community. Foreign Affairs wasn’t about getting to know you and cocktail parties. We needed their understanding and support. We had to find our feet quickly. We had to win friends and above all, we had to earn respect. We had a cause to pursue and because that cause was existential, we had to be effective on all fronts,” he Ssid.
Sir Shridath noted that the Ministry then had to lead Guyana’s response and has over the years, continued this leadership.
It is a great honour, he said, to have such a building named after him especially since it houses the Foreign Service Institute, which is the intellectual seedbed of the Foreign Service.
“As we look to the 50 years, it is here, in this Institute that will be moulded Guyana’s next generation of diplomats on whom Guyana must rely steadfastly as it has done in the past,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Karen Cummings, in her remarks said Sir Shridath indeed played a significant role in the establishment and successes of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for which it is now known.
Ramphal House houses the Consular and Protocol Services Departments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Foreign Service Institute and a library.