Throughout much of the Budget 2021 Debates, the main opposition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) has spoken of race. It is rhetoric that was on Monday continued by Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon.
In his budget presentation, Harmon quoted what he said was an excerpt from a budget speech made by late former President Desmond Hoyte, in an effort to justify bringing up the topic of race in the National Assembly.
According to him, the issue of race must be debated nationally.
But in his budget presentation, Attorney General and Senior Counsel Anil Nandlall said that the APNU/AFC dwells on the question of race because it has no constructive contribution to add to debates in the National Assembly.
“Not having a track record of performance to which the Honourable members can point to and because of their disgraceful attempt to (undermine democracy) from March to August have been deprecated by the Judiciary and condemned locally, regionally and internationally by over 100 countries across the globe, the Honourable members are unable to make a constructive contribution in this National Assembly,” Nandlall said.
“So, they come here and hurl personal attacks and invectives, manufacture accomplishments. The Honourable members come here pretending to be representatives of Afro-Guyanese when all they have done in Government is pauperised the ordinary people of this country, including Afro-Guyanese,” he added.
According to the AG, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government has in fact done more to advance the lives of Afro-Guyanese than the APNU/AFC. He noted that the Opposition offers nothing but a charade, going on to cite their legacy from office.
“The story of the Afro-Guyanese rice farmers from West Coast Berbice tells it all. The Donald Ramotar Administration distributed 50-year leases for 10 acres rice land to the people of Berbice. One of their first acts when they got into Government was to instruct the MMA (Mahaica Mahaicony Abary-Agricultural Development Authority) to revoke those leases and to give it to their cronies.”
“The MMA did that. And I took the matter to the court, on behalf of the PPP. All those people, I have no doubt. They are from C Field Village. They are from Number 40 Village. They may have voted for APNU/AFC at the 2015 elections. And their lands were being taken away.”
Nandlall noted that they were able to secure a ruling in favour of the farmers, a reference to acting Chief Justice Roxane George’s ruling of 2017 that former President David Granger acted unconstitutionally by cancelling the leases.
“Rather than accept the ruling and leave those farmers in peace, those farmers took seed paddy from the millers in advance. They took diesel, fertiliser. Some of them borrowed money. When those lands were being taken away, 51 Afro-Guyanese families would have been put on the breadline.”
“You know what the President did (after the ruling)? I have it here; they published all the names of the farmers and the notice said the (then President Granger) has cancelled all State leases as described in the schedule. Forty-five Afro-Guyanese farmers. And today, you come here to pretend to represent Guyanese.”