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– says president’s statement aimed at stirring up animosity among Guyanese
Describing President Irfaan Ali’s statements on the ongoing protest in West Coast Berbice as “irresponsible and false,” Leader of the Opposition Joseph Harmon said the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government is stroking ethnic animosity among Guyanese, at a time when the country needs to unite.
On Wednesday, President Ali while announcing a number of national interventions to address the West Coast Berbice murders and the ensuing unrest over the barbaric killing of Isaiah and Joel Henry said protesters, are not only robbing and beating innocent people but raping them as well.
In condemning the President’s statement, Harmon said there is no reported case of rape. “There are no known police reports about any rape associated with recent protest actions, yet Mr Ali in his statement among other charges said – ‘raping people’s children has nothing to do with justice.’ What rape Mr Ali?” Harmon said.
According to him, the issue of rape is a figment of the President’s speech writer’s imagination, but was nonetheless premediated and designed to incite the public and stroke ethnic animosity among the people.
Branding protestors, the Opposition Leader said, as rapists is disrespectful, contemptuous and an expression of disdain for those Guyanese who are outraged at the heinous killing of Isaiah and Joel Henry, and most recently Haresh Singh and Pritipaul Hargobin.
“Mr. Ali’s statement about children being raped, is patently and wholly false,” Harmon iterated.
He said the PPP/C continuously alleges rape in an attempt at fearmongering and incite the public towards hostility. “We recall the shouts of rape, rape in the National Assembly by PPP Member of Parliament Neil Kumar on the 11th of December 2017 when nothing of that sort happened,” the Opposition Leader recalled, while also pointing to a statement made by the Prime Minister, Brigadier Mark Phillips on a Trinidadian television station.
“At a time when the nation requires calm caring and unified leadership, Mr Ali’s statement defiles the Presidency and the actual victims of rape and is being consumed in laying blame,” Harmon said.
He said unlike the Government, which has resorted to blame game, the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Coaltion has issued a number of statements condemning violence of all forms. Additionally, its members, including the Opposition Leader and former President David Granger, have visited the families of the victims and offered support. Visits were also conducted to affected communities along the West Coast of Berbice and East Coast of Demerara. Citizens, he said, must respect the rights of other citizens and refrain from violent actions while engaging in lawful protest action.
President Ali, in also laying the blame at the feet of the APNU+AFC for the violent turn the protest has taken, demanded that the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) take action against Harmon and Granger. From the President’s statement, Harmon said that it is clear that the Government intends to expand the empowerment of the institutions of the state to take actions against political opponents.
He posited that since taking office in August, the PPP/C Government has engaged in an indiscriminate use of the Guyana Police Force to target political opponents and other citizens. Harmon called for an end to the political rhetoric and the commencement of meaningful dialogue to bring an end to the ongoing situation in the country. “The latest disturbing developments are a part of the PPP diabolical agenda of oppression and political prosecution. The APNU+AFC rejects the PPP politicalization and use of the ERC,” he made clear.