Provide the evidence – Pres. Ali challenges Aubrey Norton on racial claims

President Dr Irfaan Ali and PNC Executive Aubrey Norton
President Dr Irfaan Ali and PNC Executive Aubrey Norton

President Irfaan Ali has slammed People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Executive, Aubrey Norton for hurling allegations of racism against the current Administration, as he demanded evidence to support these fictitious claims.

In a recent engagement with the media, the Head of State was asked to share his point of view on Norton’s accusation that there is discrimination towards the Afro-Guyanese population. But the PNCR Executive came under fire for his statements – actions which the President labelled as mischievous.

“I think it’s a horrible statement. I think it’s a reckless statement. It’s a statement that has no basis in facts and I don’t want to do this. Let us just have a factual analysis of all the entities in Government. What nonsense is Mr Norton getting on with? Is this the way we’re going to move our country forward?” he questioned.

Ali vehemently condemned these remarks, noting that it drives a deeper wedge in dividing the country and moreover, Government’s quest to have national unity and inclusion.

“To have Mr Norton, without any basis, making such a statement. There is no evidence that he pointed to. Making such a statement is reckless. It shows his depth of leadership. It shows his commitment to national healing and national development and it exposes his intentions to create mischief, to create distrust, to create disharmony and for that, I have no respect.”

Just last month, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo refuted claims by the APNU/AFC coalition that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government is on a witch hunt against Afro-Guyanese. Jagdeo had posited that the Opposition coalition is using this charge of vindictiveness against Afro-Guyanese as a means to cover up corrupt acts.

“When we talk about corruption, we’re not saying Afro-Guyanese are corrupt. Any race – Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese – can be corrupt… They didn’t say anything when the Government sued BK [owned by Brian Tiwari] to recover [prime Kingston, Georgetown, properties] that we believe were sold way below the value… We sued Larry Singh [for undelivered $369 million in guns and ammunition]. We sued the other guy, Maraj (of S Maraj Contracting Services) for breach of a $413 million contract for rehabilitation of the Leguan Stelling, but nobody says anything. But if you only go after an Afro-Guyanese, it becomes racist,” the VP had contended.

Further, VP Jagdeo explained that these claims against the PPP/C are not only affecting the Government but also young Afro-Guyanese, who are being hindered from tapping into opportunities.

“When you reach out to the communities and you go to a community where people are primed by saying the guy who’s coming is racist and discriminating against everyone, then it sets up a kind of suspicion in the villages and the communities when you want to engage young people. It harms them. They are reluctant to engage. They are reluctant to explore the opportunities. I want young Afro-Guyanese kids to see us as their Government too. They must explore every scholarship option, every job option,” he stated.

After taking office last year, President Ali had warned that persons who are engaged in race-baiting or caught spewing racial hate and hostility will face the full brunt of the law. He had committed to doing everything within his power, and to use all the laws at his disposal, to put an end to this behaviour.

The Guyanese leader went on to remind persons guilty of this abuse of social media that freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution, as a fundamental right and freedom, does not relate nor extend to hate speeches or other expressions, in whatever form, capable of exciting hostility or ill-will against any person or class of persons.

“I further remind that such conduct, publications and utterances constitute grievous criminal offences under the Racial Hostilities, Cybercrime and other similar penal legislation and the State will not hesitate to resort to these provisions in our laws in appropriate circumstances,” the Head of State was quoted as saying in a missive.