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New Delhi: The South American country of Guyana has recalled its high commissioner to India over a video that showed their top diplomat posted in New Delhi allegedly using sexually suggestive abuses against a woman more than a year ago.
The country’s President Irfaan Ali announced the envoy’s recall of Guyana in a Facebook live video on Wednesday night. The recall came as a surprise as the Guyana foreign ministry had issued a statement earlier in the day that Indian authorities had exonerated Charandass Persaud of any wrongdoing after an investigation.
The alleged incident happened in August 2021, but the matter came to light only after the video was disseminated on Guyanese social media on Wednesday.
According to Guyanese media, the video reportedly shows a man with a Guyanese accent making sexual suggestions while shouting at a woman who had come to inquire about feeding a stray dog. The woman has not been identified by name in the media reports.
After the emergence of the video, Guyana’s ministry of foreign affairs stated on Tuesday afternoon that an incident had taken place in August 2021 at the diplomatic mission and that the matter was “brought to the attention of the Ministry of External Affairs of India by High Commissioner Persaud”.
The Guyanese foreign ministry stated that there had been an investigation by “relevant authorities”. Thereafter, a “formal response to the High Commission dated September 3, 2022 indicates that `allegations of sexual abusive words to complainant has not been substantiated”. Following the purported exoneration by Indian authorities, the matter was “closed”, the foreign ministry stated.
A day later, President Irfan Ali announced that he had also watched the video after it was forwarded to him on WhatsApp by reporters.
Ali said that after “reviewing” the video on Tuesday night, he called high commissioner Persaud who told him that it related to an incident that took place in August 2021.
The high commissioner told the president that the video was “not complete” and “not a full reflection of what took place”. “Mr Charrandas then communicated to me (President Ali) that this matter was dealt with relevant agencies and authorities in India and there was no evidence of misconduct and matter of fact, he was cleared of any accusation of sexual harassment,” he says in the Facebook live video. The Guyanese diplomat also shared a “letter” with the president.
However, President Ali asserted that “representatives of our country should in all occasions… conduct themselves in the highest order and regard”.
He then announced that Persaud had agreed “that in keeping with the best interest of Guyana and the image of Guyana, that he would return home from his posting in India”.
“We are, therefore, going to take all official steps and measures to ensure a smooth transition and to continue to strengthen our work with India and to work on advancing the cause of Guyana in every category,” said President Ali. With people of Indian origin accounting for over 40 per cent of the population, Guyana has maintained close ties with India.
There has been no response from the Indian government so far.
A well-known politician, Charrandas Persaud was primarily responsible for bringing down the previous coalition government in Guyana. A ruling party member, Persaud had voted against his own government, which lost a no-confidence motion by one vote in 2018. He even fled to Canada, claiming he had received death threats due to his vote.
The opposition came to power in the 2020 general elections triggered by the no-confidence vote. In March 2021, Persaud was appointed as the high commissioner of Guyana to India by the new government, despite political protests.