Opposition Member of Parliament, Jermaine Figueira has voiced his support for the government’s intention to appoint former PNC/R Executive Member, Dr. Van West Charles’ as Guyana’s Ambassador to Venezuela. He said the move is one that underscores the importance of utilizing skilled Guyanese talent in nation-building efforts.
During an exclusive interview with this publication, Figueira said, “Any Guyanese, home and abroad, that is skilled and willing to offer those skills should be utilized in nation building. Thus, if Dr. Van West Charles is deemed skilled by the government for diplomatic exploits, then he should be employed.”
Charles’ nomination takes place during a critical period when Guyana faces escalating tensions with Venezuela. Last week, the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela issued a concerning communique strongly opposing Guyana’s inaugural auction of its oil blocks, known as the 2022 Licensing Round.
The Venezuelan government expressed concerns not only about Guyana’s intention to auction specific oil blocks near its coast but also delivered a thinly veiled threat to take “all necessary measures” to prevent Guyana-licensed operations in these disputed waters, which Venezuela claims as its own.
At the core of this escalating dispute lies the delineation of maritime boundaries and the assertion of sovereignty over these waters. Guyana firmly maintained that, according to international law, the disputed waters fall within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), granting it sole sovereign rights over the sea’s resources and the seabed below.
Charles’ appointment has thus far elicited mixed reactions. Members of the opposition have accused him of being a “sell-out” while the government has used this development to showcase its inclusivity.
In a broader context, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hugh Todd was quoted as stating that Charles’ potential appointment demonstrates the PPP government’s commitment to inclusivity and emphasized that roles are assigned based on merit rather than political affiliations. Figueira was keen to note that the consensus among many is that Dr. Charles possesses the qualifications and experience necessary to serve effectively as an ambassador. In his view, Charles’ qualifications and experience make him a suitable candidate for this significant diplomatic role.
He remarked, “I have no doubt that Dr. Van West Charles is qualified on many fronts diplomatically to assist the present Minister of Foreign Affairs. Hence, the minister’s comment about inclusion is neither here nor there.”
The Opposition MP also acknowledged the need for a strong and capable team in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and he believes that individuals like Charles can contribute to strengthening the ministry for the benefit of Guyana.
Charles, a medical doctor and former Minister of Health during the Forbes Burnham-led People’s National Congress (PNC) administration, previously served as the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Representative to several Caribbean nations, and Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI).
Additionally, he is the owner of Atlantic Fuel Inc, a company that successfully contested a case against the Guyana Revenue Authority for issuing a false declaration last year.