By Demion McTair. Updated 5:55 a.m., Wednesday, January 4, 2023, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
The Government of Guyana conferred the Order of Roraima on St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves on January 3, 2023.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves who is on a four-day official visit to Guyana received the honour from Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali at a ceremony.
The Order of Roraima is Guyana’s second highest National Award.
In conferring the award to Dr. Gonsalves, Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali said: “The Co-operative Republic of Guyana is honoured to endow the Order of Roraima to Dr. The Honourable Ralph Gonsalves – Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
“The conferral of Guyana’s order of Roraima is a deserved recognition for the tireless commitment and contribution which Dr. Gonsalves has made to the cause of regionalism and regional integration,” President Ali said.
The constitution of the Orders of Guyana institutes the Order of Roraima which is being conferred on any distinguished citizen of another country who has rendered valuable service to Guyana, to whom for any other reason the State wishes to honour, President Ali said.
Guyana’s president said, “Dr. Gonsalves is a Caribbean man,” and “a national of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
“He has laboured on the issue of regionalism, recognizing that our Caribbean civilization will remain strong when we speak with one voice and act collectively,” President Ali said.
“I congratulate on this induction into the Orders of Guyana. I thank him for his steadfast leadership and wise counsel. I applaud, as do all Guyana, his commitment to democracy, peace, security and the development of the Caribbean,” President Ali said at the ceremony which was also attended by former Guyanese President, and current Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo and Secretary General of CARICOM – Carla Barnett, among others.
In June 2020, Dr. Gonsalves weighed in on the issue of the recounting of votes in Guyana’s presidential elections, saying: ““I am satisfied that CARICOM will not stand by idly and watch the recount which is properly done for the results to be set aside. We expect the CARICOM Observer Mission to deliver its report and we expect that what is the recount will be honoured and the Guyana Election Commission will honour that recount and declare the winner in accordance with this recount.”
Those comments by Dr. Gonsalves drew sharp criticisms from persons in Guyana, including for President David Granger who said Dr. Gonsalves’ comments were prejudicial and could be interpreted as interference from an official in a foreign government.
At the Janaury 3 ceremony, Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali said: “the most important attribute of any state is our commitment to democracy and the rule of law, and all leaders, people of influence who participate in a process to upkeep and uphold democracy and the rule of law must and should be recognized.”
“Some may say it does not take much for someone to stand up for democracy and freedom, but I will say it takes a lot because it takes a person of character, a person of integrity a person who is selfless to stand up, sometimes against odds, and to call a wrong when a wrong should be called,” President Ali said.
He said: “Comrade Ralph, you have demonstrated the type of character and integrity against many obstacles and stand for the truth, for democracy and ensuring that our country remains a peaceful, law-abiding, democratic state, and we applaud you greatly…”
“On behalf of the people of this beautiful country that I am sure you know is also home to you, We congratulate you, we wish you continued good health, and we hope that the younger generation in the region will take an example from your boldness and steadfastness, your frankness and your commitment to democracy, peace, civility, and freedom,” the Guyanese president said.
In his remarks, Dr. Gonsalves said he was very humbled by the bestowing of the great honour on him.
“I accept with humility, this honour, not really for myself but for all the persons with whom I have worked over the very many years since my first involvement as a political activist in 1968,” Dr. Gonsalves said.
Dr. Gonsalves said he is a political activist now in excess of 54 years.
“I’ve been in this regional integration movement for a very long time,” he said.
In receiving the award, Dr. Gonsalves paid homage to former Guyanese President Cheddi Bharat Jagan. According to Caribbean Elections, Mr. Jagan, now deceased, served as Guyana’s Chief Minister in 1953 and later Premier of British Guiana from 1961 to 1964, prior to independence. He later served as President of Guyana from 1992 to 1997.
“Throughout my 50 odd years of political activism, I have been a friend of Guyana and a friend of the nationalist movement of this country led by a person of greatness – Chedi Jagan and his dear wife, and I will never forget their own contribution in helping to teach me and mold me,” Dr. Gonsalves said.
Dr. Gonsalves expressed his surprise at the award and thanked the Government and People of Guyana.
“I came this evening not expecting this but I am truly humbled,” Dr. Gonsalves said.
“On behalf of the people of the Caribbean and the Government and people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, I want to express gratitude for this noble gesture. I shall always treasure it. Thank you and may almighty God continue to bless us all,” He added.
In February 2020, the then President of Guyana, David Granger conferred the Order of Roraima on Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, “for her outstanding contribution to the Region.”
Feature photos: President Irfaan Ali on Facebook (page).