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….calls on Speaker, National Assembly to condemn such utterances
As the debate on the 2021 National Budget kicked off on Monday, Opposition Member of Parliament Amanza Walton-Desir slammed Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo over disparaging comments which suggested that the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Members of Parliament, if not for anything else, would turn up to the National Assembly for “food.”
MP Walton-Desir said Jagdeo’s comments connote the view that the APNU+AFC Parliamentarians, the majority of whom are Afro-Guyanese, are “hungry belly dogs.” Such views, she said, must be condemned by the Speaker, Manzoor Nadir, and the National Assembly.
Jagdeo made the comment on February 11, one day before the presentation of the 2021 National Budget to the National Assembly. “…one thing I can predict, they will come and eat the food; I can predict that; I can predict that with great levels of certainty. There is no margin of error, there is no variability in that, that is a 100% certainty,” Jagdeo said in response to a question on whether the APNU+AFC MPs would be present for the presentation of the budget.
Jagdeo’s statement was described by MP Walton-Desir as “crass.”
“…This reference to food, it is not lost on us sir, that Afro Guyanese, subliminally have been called ‘hungry belly,’ it is not lost on us,” the Opposition Parliamentarian told the House.
She said it is “shameful” that the Vice President would endorse a view that debases the Guyanese people.
“It is no secret that Afro Guyanese have been branded as hungry belly dogs, and it is shameful to say the least that no less a person than the vice president of a nation would willingly reinforce, promote and endorse this insult of Guyanese people,” MP Walton-Desir said.
The Opposition MP said while some may have found it funny, and others found comfort in the notion that Jagdeo’s words are an indication of his character, as a student of history, she knows better.
“As a student of history Sir, I am mindful of the fact that the Nazis referred to the Jews as rats, the Hutus called the Tutsis cockroaches. Students of history understand that dehumanisation, the attribution of “less than human” to a group or race of people, is a precursor to terrible evil, and therefore it is incumbent on each and every one of us to roundly condemn such speech whether from friend or foe,” the MP said, as she challenged the House and its Speaker, Manzoor Nadir to condemn Jagdeo’s statement.
She posited that it is no coincidence that the Vice President is constantly interviewed by a “social media activist,” who is constantly demonizing Afro-Guyanese.
Walton-Desir was keen on pointing out that the disparaging statement made by the Vice President was done within the precinct of the National Assembly.
“I particularly look forward to you Mr. Speaker, addressing this matter since such hateful, disparaging speech was made directly in relation to Members of an Assembly over which you preside,” she told the Speaker while calling on members of both sides of the House to do their part to ensure that Guyana does not descend into the depths of darkness.
Notably, she said the Vice President made the statement the very day the movement of the APNU+AFC Members of Parliament were restricted by members of the Guyana Police Force.
“Mr Speaker, we were prevented from entering the National Assembly by the police and we were advised that it was on instruction. Similarly sir, a number of our colleagues who were in the precinct of the National Assembly had their movements restricted.
I want us to understand Mr. Speaker that members, duly elected members of the National Assembly had the freedom of their movement restricted by police; this is what is going on sir in a so-called democratic society,” MP Walton-Desir told the House.
While the Speaker, during the last sitting took no fault for the restriction in movement of the APNU+AFC MPs, Walton-Desir is hoping that both issues thoroughly investigated and condemned by the House.