PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad– The Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs condemned what it said were slanderous, misleading, disrespectful, and potentially damaging comments made about Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley regarding Guyana’s use the Russian-made Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.
And it has called on officials in Georgetown to dissociate themselves from the unwarranted verbal attacks.
Advisor to the Ministry of Health in Guyana, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, as well as the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), had been reported as being highly critical of Dr. Rowley, who is also CARICOM chairman, based on him purportedly casting doubt about the legitimacy of the Sputnik V vaccine.
However, according to a media release issued by the Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs here on Friday, “the comments and statement attempt to associate Prime Minister Rowley with views which he does not hold and which he has never expressed the comments and state.”
Dr. Ramsammy, in a published commentary the day before, had described the Trinidadian leader as “out of line” and “reckless” and claimed he had insulted Guyana and the 74 countries that are presently using vaccines like Sputnik V.
“In defending the vaccine fiasco in his country, Prime Minister Rowley unwittingly or deliberately implied that Guyana’s successful vaccination program so far is an illusion because Guyana utilized vaccines not approved for use. He boasted that Trinidad and Tobago have the most vaccine doses already in-country than any other country in CARICOM, except Guyana, but that Guyana’s vaccines do not count since they are not approved,” Dr. Ramsammy wrote.
“First of all, at the time Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister stated that Trinidad and Tobago had within their country 234,000 doses of vaccines, Guyana had in our possession 465,000 doses of vaccines – twice the amount of doses that Prime Minister Rowley’s country had. But this is not the important point; it is his raising legitimacy issues with the vaccines Guyana has approved for use. Let me clarify that all the vaccines in use in Guyana were registered and approved for use by Guyana’s Food and Drug Analyst Department. Those registrations and approvals are not automatic. They are based on several considerations and a process Guyana has used for decades. It is the same process that saved thousands of lives when we registered Indian-produced and locally-produced HIV medicines.”
Dr. Ramsammy insisted that the vaccines used in Guyana are all safe and effective.
“This includes Sputnik V. The largest amount of vaccine doses used in Guyana as of now is the Sputnik V vaccines,” he said.
But the Ministry, in its statement, said that Dr. Ramsammy had not offered “one single quotation from the Prime Minister to support his false
allegations, nor did Dr. Ramsammy offer a shred of evidence to support his misleading claims”.
Further describing the comments as “disrespectful and potentially damaging,” the Ministry insisted that “at no point in time has Prime Minister ever disparaged the vaccine program in Guyana, nor has he ever implied that the vaccines in use in Guyana are defective or unsafe; and it is miserable that the Advisor to the Ministry of Health of Guyana would use falsehood to attack the Prime Minister of a friendly neighboring country publicly.”
As for what it described as “the most reprehensible and slanderous” GCCI statement published in the Guyanese media, the Ministry said it made references to Prime Minister Rowley that were utterly false and appeared to repeat Dr. Ramsammy’s “fake narrative simply.”
It took specific issue with the GCCI, saying that Dr. Rowley’s alleged statement had come as no surprise as he “fulfills his historical trait of demonstrating scant regard for the lives of Guyanese.”
“That…disgusting slur…must be regarded as a particularly scurrilous attack against the Chairman of CARICOM,” it said.
“Ironically, that slanderous statement was issued by the Georgetown Chamber mere days after Prime Minister Rowley instructed the relevant arms of his Government to organize much-needed relief supplies and assistance for Guyana, in response to the Government of Guyana’s request through
CARICOM for help with their response to heavy floods.
“Further, Dr. Rowley, as Chairman of CARICOM, has been well recognized for his robust and consistent advocacy and frequent communication with the US and global leadership on behalf of all CARICOM people, including the people of Guyana, in pursuit of greater access to COVID-19 vaccines for our region,” it added.
The Ministry also pointed out that Dr. Rowley had intervened to help secure the release of Guyanese fishers detained in Venezuela earlier this year, led CARICOM’s support for Guyana during a critical period of the border dispute with Venezuela, and physically went to Guyana during the pandemic to work with fellow Heads of Government to assist in CARICOM’s efforts toward ensuring that the outcome of Guyana’s most recent general elections was peaceful and reflective of the will of its people.
“The Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs strongly condemns the published falsehoods against Prime Minister Rowley by Dr. Ramsammy and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and calls upon the authorities in Guyana to disassociate themselves from such unwarranted, scurrilous, and disrespectful attacks on the sitting Chairman of CARICOM, which incidentally is headquartered in Georgetown,” the statement concluded.