Guyana: British High Commissioner Dr. Greg Quinn saying “Goodbye” – by Francis Quamina Farrier

Dr. Gregg Quinn

– by Francis Quamina Farrier

The tour of duty by the British High Commissioner to Guyana and Suriname, His Excellency Dr. Greg Quin, concludes at the end of the month – August 2020. Following is an exclusive interview which I had with the out-going diplomat. 
My first question was for him to reflect on the first time he learnt that he was being posted to Guyana. “When I was told I was coming to Guyana, I was hugely excited. This was going to be my first Head of Mission post and it was in a part of the world I had spent little time in before (bar a couple of holidays).
I have spent most of my career working on the Former Soviet Union (with spells in Ghana, Iraq and Washington). I made a deliberate decision to apply to come to Guyana. I wanted a new challenge. To see a different part of the world. To have an opportunity to demonstrate my skills outside that FSU arena.”   

So how much did the High Commissioner know of Guyana before his posting here. “As an historian by training (my real passion) I did know something of Guyana. I was also aware of many of the famous Brits who were Guyanese or had family connections to Guyana. Clive Lloyd, for example, was always a hero to me when I was growing up. And then there is Eddy Grant – also a hero to me when I was growing up. Indeed one of my happiest moments was when I met Eddy for the very first time in 2015. And I am honoured to have had the opportunity to talk and meet with him on several subsequent occasions (usually at Barbados airport whilst we awaited for flights to Guyana!). And let’s not forget Sir Shridath Ramphal. It was a hugh pleasure to meet this titan of Guyanese politics and history and a previous Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.”

Was there anyone the diplomat knew in Guyana before he arrived? “There were several people in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who have family ties to Guyana. So whilst I didn’t know anyone here I did know people who knew Guyana (and who had been here).”

So what were the principal projects Dr. Quinn had on arrival, and how successful have they been? “I arrived three months before the 2015 election. That was my major pre-occupation and one which meant I had to hit the ground running. And to add the fact that I am also Ambassador to Suriname (which also had elections in May 2015) and you can see how busy it was. Throughout the period of my time here I believe there has been a significant expansion on UK activity in, and support to Guyana. This included on Security Support Reform which, in May 2015, the newly-elected President asked me to get reinstated. We managed significant work on that in subsequent years. My major aim has always been to build the relationship between our two countries. A relationship based on being equal members of organizations such as the Commonwealth. We have had several Ministerial visits, increased assistance, increased business interest and of course, the visit of Prince Harry in 2016. That was a completely unforgettable moment in my life.”

When asked about his travels around Guyana he replied, “I have travelled from the border with Venezuela in the West to Orealla in the East. I’ve been down to Lethem and Sand Creek in the South, and I’ve been many places in between. My one regret is that I never made it to Paramakatoi (although I did get to Chenapou). The reason I so wanted to go is that the UK is funding an upgrade to the health post there – and it is the only place we are doing that, that I haven’t visited.”

High Commissioner Quinn demonstrated special interest in one of Britain’s World War ll heroes, Cy Grant, who was born in Beterverwagting, East Coast Demerara. On the occasion of the 100th. birth anniversary of Cy Grant, the High Commissioner held a special Celebration event at his residence. “As an historian by training, I am convinced that we must understand and remember the past. Some of it is not pleasant, some of it most definitely is. When I first became aware of the story of Cy, it demonstrated the breadth of the links between our two countries. Links which many don’t know. Cy flew with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in World War ll and was shot down and imprisoned in a German POW camp. He was the first man of African heritage to be a regular on British TV. He became a TV star in his own right and then a passionate advocate for equality in the UK. His impact, influence and role in both countries deserved to be recognised and I am glad that I could do my small part to help that. It was also a pleasure to connect with Cy’s family and show them that his spirit and impact lives on.”

What would you miss most about your tour of duty in Guyana, I then asked him. “I think it is hard to say just one thing. It has been a spectacular 5.5 years here. I’ve done a lot, and seen a lot. It has been an amazing experience. Capped by wonderful people. But Guyana needs to look to the future. A future where every citizen will benefit. The opportunity is there. It needs to be grasped.”

The following are his wishes for Guyana in the short and the long term. “Since my first day here people have told me about the potential Guyana has. That is without question. But it has never been really achieved for the benefit of every citizen. That is my fervent hope. That politicians and leaders in this country are able to do everything they can to ensure each and every citizen benefits to the degree they deserve. Guyana, and its people, deserve better.”

In summary, Dr. Greg Quinn had this to say. “It has been quite a time here. I arrived expecting to be here for three years, yet here I am coming to the end of my posting after 5.5 years! Who would have thought it. I have had the opportunity to do and see things I never expected. That includes Kaieteur, the Rupununi, turtles, discovering the secrets of the world’s best rum (and how important it was to the Royal Navy), going up and down a variety of rivers, flying into tiny airstrips, meeting wonderful people. The list goes on and on to be honest. I will miss Guyana, but I certainly expect to remain engaged in the coming months in my next job with the FCO in London.” Since the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) deals with Commonwealth matters, Guyana will most likely be on the desk of Dr. Greg Quinn from time to time.

Dr. Greg Quinn’s overall wishes for Guyana is that, “Everyone in Guyana will knuckle down and work together for the future of Guyana and to see that potential realised that we keep hearing about. There are huge opportunities for Guyana and all Guyanese. This must be grasped for the benefit of every single citizen of this country.”

Biography: Dr. Greg Quinn:

​British High Commissioner to Guyana, Dr. Greg Quinn at the Cenotaph in Georgetown, on Remembrance Day. (Photo by Francis Quamina Farrier)

British High Commissioner Dr. Greg Quinn with Journalist Francis Quamina Farrier, at the Legionnaires in Georgetown on Remembrance Day, 2018.

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