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On Wednesday due to the flurry of movements in the National Assembly my attention was drawn to the Government’s Members of Parliament in a photoshoot for a #ChooseToChallenge campaign as they prepare to roll out activities to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) on Monday, March 8.
The world is being challenged to ‘stand against gender bias and inequality and to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements towards the creation of an inclusive world’. It is in this vein that Government MPs held signage, ‘placards’ in support of these most notable and laudable goals.
The PPP Government’s own resolve in this regard was to be tested the very day of the auspicious photoshoot, in the very same space, with the 26th Sitting of the National Assembly as the backdrop.
Yesterday, Opposition Member of Parliament Tabitha Sarabo-Halley intimated to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Leader of the Opposition and colleagues that in the precincts of the Chamber she was assaulted by Minister and fellow Member of Parliament Kwame McCoy. Everything which followed tested our resolve on the issue of gender bias and inequality; and many who earlier #ChooseToChallenge in a photo-op were found wanting in reality; in substance.
Whether it was the Speaker who wanted the consideration of the Expenditures and Estimates to continue as though the sanctity of the hallowed halls was not breached, or the three men, Prime Minister Mark Phillips, Minister Juan Edghill and Minister Anand Persaud, who appeared on a Department of Public Information’s (DPI) program to push back against the serious charges being leveled against MP McCoy; who oversees the operations of DPI itself as part of his remit.
What stands as an indictment of the PPP Government’s #ChooseTo Challenge campaign is that long before the investigation into this serious matter has been concluded there have been egregious pronouncements on the issue to the effect and extent that it never occurred in the first place, and, even though MP McCoy has admitted to verbally confronting MP Sarabo-Halley who was otherwise making a routine, uneventful sojourn to the ladies restroom.
It is an indictment that the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, spearheading the #ChooseToChallenge campaign, led by Dr. Vindya Persaud and these many hours later, there in not even a call for a swift investigation by the honorable Minister and MP, in what is a most reprehensible act against a fellow female MP. I find it simply and singularly astonishing.
If this is the reaction of a Government, Ministers, Members of Parliament to the assault of an MP, Sarabo-Halley, on the eve of International Women’s Day 2021, how does the ordinary mother, sister, daughter, friend, and ordinary Guyanese fare who dares to step forward; who summons the courage to step forward? Did we #ChooseToChallenge yesterday or does status quo treatment of our women persist?
Sherod Avery Duncan, MP.