Monday, October 10, 2011

The real legacy of the Jagdeo presidency

A few days ago I came across an article on CSME Network News, an online news resource that describes itself as compiling “the latest in political and business news from CARICOM member states.” The article in question, titled ‘Jagdeo says Guyana will have first dibs on his service after retirement,‘ had been taken from a Demerara Waves report on President Jagdeo’s press conference last week. It raised two significant issues that all Guyanese should bear in mind – at home and in the diaspora where political parties have already come looking for campaign funds in this election season.

The first relates to the President’s response to a question about his plans after the forthcoming national elections, where he apparently “said he has had a ‘huge‘ number of offers to work abroad and he is still to determine how he will relate to them because some of them are ‘quite lucrative.‘”

This is quite a remarkable disclosure. One wonders what a “lucrative” offer looks like next to the golden handshake that pensioner Jagdeo will receive from Guyanese.

One thing we know for sure is that unlike the vast majority of Guyanese pensioners who currently receive $7,500/month, President Jagdeo will not be going hand to mouth while he makes a decision about which of these “lucrative” offers he will take. Unlike other Guyanese pensioners, many of whom in the twilight of their lives are reduced to begging or scraping a living from whatever job they can find, 48-year-old pensioner Jagdeo can choose to take another paid job, for he does not have to lift a finger for the rest of his life. Literally, for he will have an unlimited supply of maids, security guards, gardeners, attendants, clerical and technical staff to do all this for him. The same legislators who have told Guyanese pensioners to make do with $250.00 a day because this is what the country can afford, are the ones who have guaranteed that President Jagdeo will enjoy the most vulgar and obscene pension entitlements that we have ever seen in this country. The head of the Presidential Secretariat would have us believe that this is a most reasonable arrangement, despite the fact that the Minister of Finance cannot tell the Guyanese taxpayers what the cost of footing this bill will be, since the Act that brought this legislation into existence does not put any limits on these entitlements. We know this makes no financial sense, so we need to ask ourselves what else is going on here, and whose interests is all this supposed to serve? The sky’s the limit, but only for this one soon to be pensioner.

At the press conference, the President was reported to clearly express his undying patriotism, and to say that “anything I can do to advance our wellbeing as a country, that’s a priority for me.” Perhaps he should let us know equally clearly if, after he takes one of these so-called “lucrative” offers, he intends to keep squatting on the massive golden egg that is the Guyanese taxpayers who have to bear the unconscionable burden of footing his pension bill. With election date announced yesterday, it is time for all those campaigning for Guyanese support – votes and campaign donations – to ask all political parties and candidates some questions. Given that President Jagdeo promised that “Guyana will always have first call on his time,” should the PPP win the election and Jagdeo return to public office (as PPP presidential candidate Donald Ramotar has publicly mused in the past), will the party guarantee right now that he will be required to give up his pension, like former heads are required to do in other Caribbean countries? More crucially, which of the parties will categorically agree that Guyana’s current provisions for presidential pensions (under which Jagdeo will be the first recipient at age 48), are a complete and utter eyepass to Guyanese taxpayers, and which of the parties will commit to revising this vulgar legislation?

The second issue relates to President Jagdeo’s reported comment that “It’s important that we are competitive with each other as elections should be, people should criticize each other. I think we’re fair game for criticism because we’ve been in government for a while and we haven’t been perfect but we believe our record is good compared to the other people we are contesting against.”

This is also a most remarkable statement, in light of the President shutting down CNS TV Channel Six for four months, effectively ensuring that they are off the air for the duration of the elections. As newspaper editorials and commentators to the media and on the streets at the public meetings have pointed out, this is not a matter of either defending the content of the programme that allegedly precipitated this decision, or defending Mr Sharma personally. Channel Six is already before the courts since Bishop Juan Edghill brought a motion against Anthony Vieira and C N Sharma.

At issue is the high-handedness of this decision, and its timing. Bishop Edghill’s motion was filed since May of this year, but the President has waited for close to five months, and on the eve of the elections, to take Channel Six off the air. Whose interests does this serve? The President declares that criticism is healthy for a functioning democracy and that his government is fair game, but if he is confident that his party will win the forthcoming elections on the basis of popularity and loyalty, why are he and his government trying so hard to ensure that they sew up the media so that only their views will be heard? The state media is unequivocally and unapologetically unrepresentative, serving as little more than an outlet for PPP propaganda. Communities like Linden are given no choice beyond NCN Linden. The Stabroek News editorial of Sunday October 9 noted that Channel Six has a dedicated following in communities that are considered the stronghold and property of the PPP, (this should not be underestimated as a major factor in the 4 month suspension handed to the station). It is worth repeating what the editorial points out, that “since at the moment there is no indication that the state media intend to provide equal access to the opposition, it means that Freedom House is attempting to ensure that the public hears only PPP voices.”

What we have then, is lipservice being given to the value of criticism, while in reality only unquestioning obedience to and uncritical support of this administration will do. The way it seems we are expected to get things done today is by grovelling and by fear; a common pattern, reflected even in the meeting that led to the 4 month suspension, is the seeking out of personal audiences with the President who grants favours that should be entitlements and takes them away because he can. This is the stuff these days of an executive presidency. This is the difference that the PPP promised 19 years after they came to power? What difference? There is a word for this presidential behaviour, hubris, which means excessive arrogance, especially when the one who is behaving in this obscene way occupies a position of great authority.

On September 16 a lavish appreciation ceremony was held for President Jagdeo at the National Stadium. And while organizers were quick to claim that this was all volunteer labour, state resources were heavily drawn on to bring off the event, from the participation of the armed forces to the extensive coverage of the state owned media. I am sure that for many it felt like déjà vu, reminding us of those ceremonial and public displays of loyalty to President Burnham. In the press conference last week President Jagdeo reportedly stated that “the people who live here are my people.” He may have wanted to communicate that he was of the people, a sufferer with the people, but it is hard not to read the use of the word “my” in another way, one that emphasizes who is really in control, and is prepared to exercise executive power to maintain that control. ‘My people’:

because I am on top and they belong to me. It’s hard not to see this when we look at the lavish farewell ceremony in which the state media make every effort in their coverage to show grateful people thanking ‘massa’; or when we consider the farewell presidential pension package the likes of which the country has never seen and that ‘my people’ will be paying for; or when we think of the decision to shut down criticism because only my people, who must be yes-people, will be allowed to speak.

There is a famous children’s story that my daughter recently performed on stage about the emperor who strutted about naked in front of “his” people because no-one dared to tell him that he was not wearing a new suit of clothes. It took one child to insist to the pompous emperor that he had nothing on. An online definition of hubris suggests that the over-confidence in one’s authority comes from having lost touch with reality. As we enter this election season, and long after the dust settles on it, we need to stand up, to become that child who speaks back to the emperor because she can, and because she must understand that she is the reality that cannot and will not be ignored, the reality that needs to be reckoned with.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guyana to register thousands of new voters

Guyana's Parliament has agreed to let the country's elections commission reopen the voter registration process to include thousands of voters without birth certificates.

The decision comes in advance of general elections scheduled for December.

An estimated 6,000 to 10,000 voters in the South American country do not have birth certificates. The majority live in a remote northwest region near the border with Venezuela.

Opposition legislator Khemraj Ramjattan says Thursday's vote is nothing more than a ploy to help President Bharrat Jagdeo delay the elections and extend his time in power.

The ruling People's Progressive Party is seeking its fifth consecutive five-year term. The constitution prohibits Jagdeo from seeking a third term.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Back to Guyana, on a mission from God

For most of us, Guyana conjures up images of one of two things: Steve McQueen in “Papillion” (which actually took place in nearby French Guiana) or the mass suicide orchestrated by the Rev. Jim Jones in 1978.

But for Paula Blakely, of Tinley Park, the tiny South American country is where tropical breezes wind through mangrove marshes. It is where the dinner bell signals a meal of curried goat with roti rice. It is where her earliest memories were formed.

“Guyana is a beautiful country, rich in culture,” Paula said.

She was born in Georgetown. Her father was pastor and founder of the country’s largest church.

John and Monica Husbands came to the United States as missionaries. Two years later, after the paperwork was in order, they sent for their six children.

“I lived with my grandmother for those two years,” Paula, 42, recalled.

Though the family tried to return as often as they could afford, Paula hasn’t been back in two decades.

That will change when she returns this fall with her husband and two children on a missionary trip of her own.

Eric Blakely, 43, is pastor of Trees of Righteousness International Ministries in East Hazel Crest. The ministry has traveled to China, South Africa and, most recently, Honduras, helping disadvantaged women and children however it can. It has also helped the needy here in the United States.

In May, they spent a week in Ciudad de Zion, Honduras, where they helped build a playground at an orphanage for 54 children. The home was founded by a local woman who began taking in abandoned children.

Unlike some other missionary groups, the Blakelys say, they are in it for the long haul.

“Some groups use these poor children simply to raise money for themselves,” Eric said. “They go in, snap some photos and then send out requests for money.”

When the Blakelys visit another country’s poor, Paula said, they don’t just pop in and take photos and return to the hotel. They stay with the people they’re helping. They eat dinner with them, play board games with them and, in the case of the children, get to know their hopes and dreams.

Eric said, “We went there planning to build a playground but we ended up building a relationship.”

Of course, he added, there is a downside to that. “We were all sobbing when it came time to say goodbye.”

Paula has traveled to Honduras three times. This past spring’s trip was Eric’s second. They also brought their teenage children, Paul and Erica, along for the journey.

“The minister there couldn’t believe we were actually coming back because so many others do not,” Paula said. “Now they know when we come, we truly come to help.”

The couple are planning its first trip to Guyana, which Paula is looking forward to.

Because she’s lived in a number of different cities, including Miami, St. Louis and Toronto, Paula says she understands the value of being able to adapt. But she says she misses her roots.

Paula, who has a degree from Southeast College of the Assemblies of God, met Eric after her job as a flight attendant for American Airlines relocated her to Chicago.

Eric has a degree from DePaul University. In addition to his work at the church, he is a member of the Army Reserves.

“My husband says he can only detect my accent on three occasions: when I’m excited, when I’m angry and when I’m around family.”

She’ll experience plenty of the latter on her pilgrimmage back to Georgetown. Her father will accompany her as well as her husband and children.

“We’ll try to reconnect with extended family members, too,” she said. “It’s important that my children have an understanding of their heritage.”

She wants them to know that the people of Guyana are a blend of Caribe and Arowak indians, as well as East Indian, Portuguese, Chinese and African influences.

Though the country is flush with culture, she said in terms of technology, it is decades behind the United States.

“It will be interesting to bring our knowledge of technology, to hopefully improve their standard of living,” she said.

The biggest challenge, she added, will be figuring out a way to help without hindering or causing her people to think she thinks she’s better simply because she has an American education and lifestyle.

The way to do that, she believes, is to become one with the people they are serving.

That, she added, will be the easy part. She’s already looking forward to a steaming plate of fresh seafood, as well as all the mango and coconut she can get her hands on.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A rule-breaking tale

For a debut novel, Rahul Bhattacharya breaks all the rules and goes for all things unconventional. Set in Guyana, an ensemble cast, an unnamed protagonist, part travelogue, it is anything but what you expect from an Indian author debuting in the fiction genre. But that’s what makes The Sly Company of People Who Care one of the most fascinating books to have come out in recent times.

Bhattacharya could have easily gone wrong writing about a land far away, its history and the complex characters who live there. Yet, his narrative style is so eloquent that he makes you feel a part of it. He makes Guyana look like a land of illusion — full of beaches, rivers, forests and so beautiful that you want to experience it. At the same time, he manages with utmost ease to take you through the journey of a young man travelling into the land of the unknown.

Much like Bhattacharya – who was a cricket writer earlier – the protagonist of the book leaves his job and comes to live in Georgetown, Guyana. The book is about his journey and how he becomes a porknocker (local slang for diamond miner), falls in love with an East Indian woman, and goes through the various adventures the land of Guyana has to offer — both good and bad. As one of the characters, Uncle Lance, tells the protagonist, “We got embassy, orphanage, vulcanisin, pawnshop, cookshop, rumshop, short-time’ — the by-the-hour humping rooms.”

The characters stand out in The Sly Company of People Who Care. There is Baby the Bandit, with whom the protagonist goes about porknocking and visits some of the most exotic locales that Guyana has. His relationship with Baby and their travels form quite a major part of the book. The protagonist is both in awe of Baby and finds it hard to trust him at the same time.

The characters both men meet are distinct, colourful and wild but they bring out the flavour of the remote areas of Guyana. For instance, even in the forest, while smoking and downing potent rum punches, they can talk about cricket, Brian Lara and everything under the sun. The cricket writer in Bhattacharya comes alive on a couple of occasions in the book. Being an Indian in Guyana, cricket is a topic of conversation between him and a few local people. He argues ferociously on Lara’s greatness when a local tries to play down Lara’s talent as a batsman.

The characters have unique names such as Ramotar Seven Curry, Rabindranath Latchman, Roger Khan and Uncle Red. You can sense that Bhattacharya has an eye for detail. Whether it is the characters or the history of Guyana which he tells the reader at various points in the book, Bhattacharya treads a difficult path with ease. Like describing a rainy day in Guyana, he writes, “Guyana was elemental, water and earth, mud and fruit, race and crime, innocent and full of scoundrels.”

There are many things that stand out in the book but the highlight is the way Bhattacharya blends the local language into his narrative. Again, like many things in the book, this is unconventional but works beautifully. There are some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments just reading the Guyanese patois. In an interview, Bhattacharya said that when he had written the first draft, it was almost written in that language only. But his publishers advised him that a lot of people might not understand it.

True, some might find the book tad heavy and the use of the local language might not go down too well with many readers. There are times when Bhattacharya does go overboard describing certain situations in the book. For instance, there’s a whole passage devoted to describing swifts flying behind a waterfall. But then, overall his style of writing makes up for it. The way he describes the beautiful Guyanese landscape would often make you wonder it it’s actually a travelogue interspersed with fiction.

Anyone who has followed Bhattacharya’s writings on cricket would know that he is a gifted writer. At a time when young Indian authors are coming up with some average and some above average run-of-the-mill works of fiction, Bhattacharya’s book stands apart from the crowd, especially when you consider the setting and the context of the book. The book has received rave reviews in the literary world and is already being hailed as one of the best books of the year. It’s a book that commands your attention and you are compelled to give it all it needs. As a local Guyanese would say, “It’s a great read, bai.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Living, loving in Guyana

On Guyana's streets, you encounter continents. Nationalities, religions and races jostle for space: Chinese, Portuguese, Negroes and a lot of moody Indians. Rogues and saints, scoundrels and innocents, everybody scrounges for a living, equally contemptuous of the locals. The struggle of life is so el
emental, its inhabitants don't set much store by niceties. People meet, swap stories, lie, love, leave and don't say goodbye.

It's then alright for a man to be a bit of this and a bit of that, "neither one thing nor the other". In The Sly Company of People who Care, Rahul Bhattacharya creates this transience through several things - the Guyana 'feel' and its vibe of being an accidental place; the randomness with which people criss-cross through each other's lives, the professed ease with which they slip into 'character' ("Tha'is why Guyanese could succeed anywhere. We go New York, Canada, Flarida, we could become jus like them. But they can't become like we!"). And primarily through the narrator - a young layabout Indian who has landed in Guyana because he "came here once, and afterwards had dreams" and will, it seems, ramble through it for a year. Or, perhaps two.

The characterisation is competent, built mainly by what the different players allow themselves to reveal through what they say. The Guyanese by nationality and the Guyanese by aspiration speak a different tongue, and it makes you think that perhaps the author has used language not just to evoke or impart local 'colour', but to capture the real in the reality. The ambition of this novel is actually to address the complex human story of migrants and migration - and this is not a criticism - without epic effects.

The novel employs an ensemble cast. There is the flamboyant and ageless Uncle Lance with his shaky white Toyota who loves to talk of "politricks" and how it will be the death of his country. Action Jackson is the gold-wearing, gum-chewing husband of the narrator's landlady, who could "juice rent" from his tenants, "an act of ambition that drew both respect and resentment". Mr Bhombal is the easily scandalised Indian ("Is this life?" he despaired after he had traversed the single fleet of stairs. "Is this country?"). Add to them the morally ambiguous diamond-hunter Baby ("The way a diamond wink at you, no gal would wink at you like so") and the sentimental Basdeo Kumar, marked by the memory of his grandfather's rejection by his village ("Pure man," he said defensively on being asked if he was mixed. "Pure all the way." He took off his cap, ran his hands over his very short hair… "Watch man, straight. It straight.").

The relationship between the narrator and Jankey, the vixen, masterly at providing imprecise details ("But you only twenty-one." She looked at me in the mirror. "And you said I looked twenty-five"… "So you had him when you were seventeen?"… "Where the father?"…"All over the place, focking skunt") is the final seal of the narrator's experience of brittleness in this makeshift Guyana.

Bhattacharya's earlier work, Pundits from Pakistan, was a cricket tour book. The Sly Company of People Who Care is his first novel. And it is a good one - by any standard.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Immigrant Woman Sees 'Cloudy' Future Ahead

Sherin Inniss, 51, came to New York from Guyana in 2006. In 2001, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) began recruiting Caribbean teachers to come work in the city's public schools. Inniss's husband was one of these teachers. He passed away two years after arriving in America.

Left to raise two sons on her own, her sorrow was aggravated by the fact that the immigration status Inniss and her children enjoyed passed with her husband. The Social Security he paid into was not offered to his family, as they are not permanent residents.

Inniss is sponsored by Tuoro College to work. The boys are covered under her H-1B work visa that depends on continued employement with Tuoro College. She is an accounting tutor, but it is not consistent work. She brings in about $800 a month. The family was homeless for a while. They are crowded in a friend's living room for now, paying $400 a month, but the friend wants his space back soon.

“It's like you're seeing a cloudy glass,” said Inniss, describing how she feels when looking into her future. “You can't see clearly what's happening on the other side.”

Her eldest son is 16 years old and hopes to attend college. At a loss for what to do, Inniss says her son “gets very, very depressed.” Inniss, along with other Caribbeanteachers recruited by the DOE, continue to petition the city to fulfill what they feel are the “broken promises” of a better life in America.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Comedy Night Café features Dan Levy

Dan Levy from Chelsea Lately is headlining Comedy Night Café at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa on Monday, Feb. 14. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. The 18+ show starts at 9 p.m.

Tickets are $20 at the door, the Hard Rock Store and at all Ticketmaster outlets.

The Seminole Hard Rock is located at 5223 N Orient Road in Tampa.

According to Levy’s bio posted at, after enrolling in Emerson College in Boston, he began performing at open mikes and other venues. As a sophomore in college, Levy was chosen to compete at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo., where he won the title of Funniest College Comedian.

Since then, he has been seen at the Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival numerous times and has made TV appearances on Comedy Central’s “Premium Blend,” “Comedy Central Presents,” “The Late Late Show,” and Chelsea Lately, where he is regular guest on her round table.

He is currently touring with Aziz Ansari and has a comedy central album set for release this fall.

For more information about the show, visit

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why are remigrants being asked to pay $7M for 8,000 sq ft of land when the President is paying $5M per acre?

After reading about the land being offered to remigrants (only a fool would pay US$35,000 for a house lot in Guyana that’s less than ¼ of an acre), I went to the Central Housing & Planning Authority’s website to have a look at the application form. As ‘Peeping Tom’ in KN indicated, I had to create a username and password, and provide my email address before I was allowed to access this information. The form itself is quite straightforward and user-friendly. Remigrants are given a choice to select one of four house lots (or as they’re referred to in the USA: homesites): 6,000 sq ft costing $4M; 6500 sq ft ($4.5M); 7000 sq ft ($5.5M); and the largest lot, 8,000 sq ft, goes for $7 million.

The small homesite measuring 6,000 sq ft is so small that if you cough, your neighbour catches a cold, so there would not be many takers for this size. A standard homesite in Florida is 10,000 sq ft, almost a quarter of an acre, and with real estate prices now way down, it is more economically feasible and sensible for a Guyanese thinking of going back home, to buy one of these homesites in Florida for about US$10,000 and build their home there instead. People are leaving Guyana and every country in the world to come to the United States by any means they can to secure a better quality of life for themselves and their families. And although the economy is not as good as it used to be, this is still the greatest country God has ever created – barring none!

Most Guyanese living abroad are patriotic. We’re sometimes critical of the government, not out of malice, but out of a burning desire to see real progress so that one day we may return to the place we all love. I have personally remitted millions every year to help family members and the underprivileged, and I’m aware that others do the same. In fact, we contribute significantly to the Guyana economy with every dollar and barrel we send home, and with every visit we make for Christmas, Mashramani, cricket, weddings and funerals. I, like most Guyanese living abroad, am very concerned about the high level of corruption and the crime rate, and the inability of law enforcement to bring this under control. I recognize and appreciate the efforts being made by government to improve infrastructure, education and healthcare, but not enough is being done. In fact, Guyana in this stage of socioeconomic development is not an appealing option at this time for a Guyanese living abroad.

The Jagdeo administration must be commended, however, for the tremendous housing programme they have embarked upon to provide affordable land to its citizens, ranging from $59,400 in special cases to a maximum of $1.2 million (US$6,000) for those in the middle income bracket; and for making it easier for them to obtain low interest building loans from financial institutions. But when one considers that President Jagdeo and senior officials have all bought land at the exclusive ocean-view ‘Pradoville 2’ for a mere $5M per acre, this represents the same amount that a middle-income family in Guyana would have to pay for land if they were allowed to buy an acre from the government in a much less affluent neighbourhood. But the unconscionable part is this: Mr Jagdeo and all the President’s men who bought up government land at ‘Pradoville 2’ should have paid over $28 million per acre for this waterfront location instead of $5M, if the land there was valued at $7M for 8,000 sq ft, the same amount they’re expecting remigrants to pay.

In a recent statement to the press referring to the land sale at ‘Pradoville 2,’ Minister of Housing and Water Irfaan Ali said, “The land itself was subject to approved valuation and sold at market value.” If this is true, would Minister Ali inform the overseas Guyanese community why they are asked to pay $7M for a piece of land that measures only 8,000 sq ft in Providence or some other area, when prime waterfront property overlooking the majestic Atlantic Ocean at ‘Pradoville 2’ was sold at ‘market value’ for a mere $1.25M per 10,890 sq ft. (1/4 acre)? And if the land being sold to remigrants is valued at six times that of ‘Pradoville 2,’ why did the President and other ministers not build their homes there instead, and reserve ‘Pradoville 2 for remigrants? There can only be four possible answers:

1. Without thinking, somebody at the Housing Ministry may have decided that all overseas-based Guyanese are wealthy and dumb, and would pack up everything and rush back to live in Guyana if the administration rolls out the red carpet, regardless of the price of land.

2. This is a deliberate scheme by the government to rip off hard-working Guyanese living abroad to get much-needed foreign currency into the country.

3. This is a cleverly thought-out sinister plan to give us the false impression that the administration is working diligently to provide incentives to encourage Guyanese living abroad to return home, when in fact they really don’t want us to do so. The reason being the significant economic role we play in subsidizing the Guyana economy. So Minister Ali announces the creation of a special housing community for remigrants, offering us land way above the market value, knowing that we’re too informed to fall for this.

4. This I believe to be the most realistic of the four: Minister Irfaan Ali is overwhelmed with demands from locals, and is incapable of handling the distribution of land to remigrants. So he delegates the responsibility to some contractor who buys the land cheaply from the government, and hopes to make a killing from us. It ain’t gonna happen.

Guyana is mostly underpopulated for its size of 83,000 sq miles, and the PPP/C administration is right to encourage Guyanese living abroad to return home, but this is not the way to do it. As it is, Guyanese returning home at this time is very risky and dangerous as they’re likely to be targeted by bandits. So Minister Ali must sweeten the pot by offering remigrants the opportunity to buy land in Guyana at the same rate his colleagues are getting it for: $5M per acre or $1.25M for a quarter of an acre. So we can use the rest of the money to open a small business and provide employment.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

100% Pure campaign lacks Maori culture - MP

The Maori Party is disappointed by the lack of Maori culture in the latest Tourism New Zealand marketing campaign.

The campaign was launched yesterday and replaces the “100 Percent Pure New Zealand” campaign which has been running for 12 years.

The new message, “100 Percent Pure You”, highlights the individual experiences on offer.

But Maori Party tourism spokesperson Te Ururoa Flavell says it is a shame the Maori culture has been overlooked.

"The Maori people, our culture and language is what makes Aotearoa New Zealand unique – you will not find it anywhere else on earth yet we have been cut out of the frame in this campaign," says Mr Flavell.

The multi-million dollar 100 Percent Pure You campaign includes three TV commercials.

One features a young woman - best known for promoting Vegemite in Australia - raving about her jetboat ride in Queenstown.

“What we're doing now is basically saying, well on that beautiful backdrop there's so many great things you can do, from horse riding to jetboating to walks through forests. And showcasing those beautiful experiences that New Zealand has to offer,” says Justin Watson of Tourism NZ.

Mr Flavell says an example of where the Maori culture can be used is in North America, Europe and Asia, where the campaign is being rolled out.

These countries have more jetboat rides, bridges and horse treks than Aotearoa could ever have, but none of those countries had a living marae, says Mr Flavell.

He is calling for Tourism New Zealand to incorporate a unique Maori element to the campaign.

"We must promote to the world that Maori culture is alive and thriving and that we welcome them to this great land."

And it appears the Maori Party are not the only ones disappointed by the new campaign.

Former ad agency boss Nigel Keats is concerned at the lack of unique New Zealand branding.

“A lot of the scenery could be pretty much anywhere. There are no audio or other visual clues that it's New Zealand apart from the logo at the end,” says Mr Keats.

The new “100 Percent Pure You” campaign is already running in Australia, and will be rolled out across Europe, America, and Asia over the next few months.