Address by His Excellency Dr. Odeen Ishmael, Ambassador of the Republic of Guyana, to the Senate of the State of Michigan Lansing, Michigan, September 17, 1998

Mr. President,

I thank you and the distinguished members of the Senate of the State of Michigan for allowing me to address this august body on the occasion of my visit to your capital. My good friend Senator Hoffman, a worthy representative of your beautiful state, has constantly extended an invitation to me to visit, and now that I have come, I have already been enticed by the warmth of the people to make future visits, hopefully for longer periods.

Mr. President, I take this opportunity to express the gratitude of the government and people of Guyana for the tribute this Senate paid to the late President of my country, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, who passed away in March last year. This kind tribute, in the form of Senate Resolution Number 55, was adopted in this Senate on May 13, 1997.

It may interest you to note that my country has a long economic linkage with the state of Michigan. This is evidenced by the number of automobiles and farm machinery imported into my country over the years from this region of the United States.

What is of additional interest is that the current President of Guyana, President Janet Jagan, received some of her education in this very state at the University of Detroit, Wayne University, and the Michigan State University. That itself is a significant linkage that Guyana and Michigan have a linkage I propose to expand during my short visit to Lansing when I discuss with representatives of the Office of the Governor, with your institutions of higher learning, and with some of you, concrete terms for economic and cultural partnerships between my country and the State of Michigan.

Mr. President, my country, located on the northeastern shoulder of South America is ideally situated at an economic bridging point linking the Caribbean region and South America. As an English-speaking nation, we present an advantageous base position for American enterprises that want to gain new or additional footholds in the markets of the South American continent. Despite having a land area of 83,000 square miles, my country has a population of just over three-quarters of a million. However, Guyana does possess vast areas of tropical rain forests with abundant plant and animal species, and also vast water and mineral resources and great eco-tourism potential. We invite Michigan business enterprises to visit Guyana and to examine the possibility of assisting in the development of these resources.

Like other Ambassadors accredited to the United States, I meet from time to time with politicians on Capitol Hill. Nevertheless, I am keenly aware that the power of politicians in Washington is rooted in a greater power which exerts itself within the various States of this vast country. It must be emphasized that people of the States elect representatives to Washington, and, as such, those representatives must not only provide leadership but also represent the interests and aspirations of the people who sent them there. I believe that the individual State along with its legislature should be a key player in the development of political, economic and cultural relations with different countries and economies. Since the States created the federal government, they themselves are laboratories of democracy from which developing nations of the world can take examples and learn.

I believe, too, that political, economic and cultural partnerships should be developed between State governments and those of other countries. In this respect, I am pleased to note that trade missions led by your Governor to a number of countries have been successful in expanding international trade and business agreements. I hope that my visit here will help to promote a visit of a trade delegation from my country to Michigan in the not too distant future.

While some are of the opinion that it is the exclusive domain of the federal government to deal with international issues, I argue that State legislatures must show greater interest in foreign affairs. After all, a position taken by the federal government eventually has an impact one way or the other on the welfare of individual States of this union. As you are fully aware, all of your constituents are very sensitive over how their tax dollar is spent, particularly when it goes to defense, foreign aid and UN programs.

Mr. President, my Government shares some common aspirations with the members of this Senate. We all want to implement programs and policies for the improvement of the lives of our respective peoples. We are concerned over international crises situations such as the expansion of terrorism, the escalating international economic problems, abject poverty and political instability in some parts of the world, expanding ethnic tensions, growing indebtedness of poor nations, and the drug menace, among other existing problems. Surely, these will have a detrimental impact on the lives of our peoples on human development unless actions are taken to reduce them or eliminate them totally. If efforts are not made in this direction, the very fabric of democracy may be undermined.

The post-Cold war period has built hopes that a new global human order can be established based on mutual respect, equal opportunities for all peoples, and a consolidation of democracy and human development. We must strive to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian nature. By doing so, the lasting foundations for international peace and security will be established and our peoples will have more contented lives.

I look forward to working with you to establish a dynamic partnership between the State of Michigan and my country.

Thank you.