PIO MPs India conference– Resident Indian High Commissioner fires backDirector of Public Information at the Office of the Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has been upbraided for what was described as a ‘distasteful’ comment directed at the resident Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, His Excellency Mr Mahalingam Venkatachalam, regarding the selection of Members of Parliament for a conference in India.Khan, a member of the Alliance for Change (AFC) component of the Coalition APNU-AFC Administration, took to social media to call out High Commissioner Venkatachalam on the issue of several sitting MPs of Indian origin – from both the Government and parliamentary Opposition benches — attending the first-ever PIO (Person of Indian Origin) Parliamentarian Conference in India.“Something smells. And it ain’t parfum. Is the Indian High Commission in Guyana interfering in Guyana’s internal affairs and attempting to engage in destabilisation of the Coalition Government?” Khan questioned, while tagging the Indian diplomat in his personalised comment.Director of Public Information, Imran KhanKhan went a bit further, asking whether any of the Indo-Guyanese ministers of Government and sitting MPs were invited to the conference currently ongoing in India? “Or did the High Commission only and deliberately invite three Coalition Government backbench parliamentarians while specifically ignoring ministers? If so, on what basis was this decision made?” Khan further questioned.Khan also questioned whether it was true that 23 Guyanese MPs were invited in this regard, and that 20 of the invitees are Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) MPs while a mere three are Government MPs.While there were several arguments pertaining to whether Khan should be asking these questions, or whether it was a direct attack on the Indian High Commissioner, several people found it strange that Khan, a public office bearer, would raise these concerns with a foreign mission in such a forum.Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence also took umbrage at the statement made by Khan, and expressed her displeasure by saying, “Imran Khan, this is distasteful and not in keeping with how this Government treats their guests. Please remove this post.”Venkatachalam, on the other hand, later responded to the post by stating that many persons in the top hierarchy of the Guyana Government and the Guyana High Commission in New Delhi are aware of the invitations from the Government of India for 23 MPs and 3 Mayors of Guyana, and of the rationale behind inviting only those Persons of Indian Origin MPs who are not Ministers.“Hence reckless comments on such a serious issue on social media with the clear intention to mislead the general public by none other than Director of Public Information is unfortunate, irresponsible, unprofessional; and to say the least, mischievous, given the excellent bilateral relations being enjoyed by both India and Guyana and the ongoing friendly cooperation in various multilateral fora,” the High Commissioner chided.Meanwhile, in response to posts on social media and in sections of the mainstream media criticising the PPP for sending a total of 17 Parliamentarians to a conference in India, Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira responded that her party had received invitations and accepted them. She claimed that soon after, in December, preparations were put in place for the selected individuals to attend the event, which is being hosted by India. This, she said, affected the attendance of those Opposition MPs in Parliament on Wednesday.The Opposition Chief Whip also rebuffed criticisms at the selection of Opposition Parliamentarian Clement Rohee to form part of the delegation attending the conference. She said Rohee is of Indian origin, as his name suggests, and his parentage background is also Indian.Among the Guyana delegation to attend the conference are three MPs from the Coalition Government and three mayors. The trip is being funded by the Indian Government.The PPP delegation is led by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, and includes Clement Rohee, Irfaan Ali, Anil Nandlall, Dr. Frank Anthony, Dharamkumar Seeraj, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, Indranie Chandarpal, Colin Croal, Dr Bheri Ramsarran, Zulfikar Mustapha, Ganga Persaud, Neendkumar, Dr. Vishwa Mahadeo, Nigel Dharamlall, Bhagmattie Veerasammy and Vickram Bharrat.The coalition members are Rajcoomarie Bancroft, Charrandass Persaud and Haimraj Rajkumar. Corriverton Mayor Krishnand Jaichand, Anna Regina Mayor Rabindranauth Mohan and Rose Hall Town Mayor Vijay Ramoo are also in attendance at the conference.A total of 141 public representatives from various countries participated in the conference, with some 124 MPs coming from the UK, Canada, Fiji, Kenya, Mauritius, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and other countries.The purpose of the conference was to help to establish a network with leaders of Indian origin in various countries, and get a feedback on the direction in which Indian engagement with the Diaspora should proceed. The trip is being funded by the Indian Government.