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Some statements made by President Irfaan Ali, on Sunday, at a road commissioning event in Mocha, East Bank Demerara, have offended many. Businessman and Accountant Mr. Nigel Hinds, who was a former People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) appointee to the Board of National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), is speaking out on the matter.
Citing several parts of the president’s speech, Hinds surmised they are offensive because his words are received as “racist, demeaning, disrespectful and hurtful narratives against African-Guyanese” and he “needs to apologise immediately.” According to the accountant, “it seems …that these are by far the worst statements of Ali’s Presidency” and “this is not the Irfaan Ali I know.”
The United States’ organisation of Community of Practice speaking to the issue of ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’ advice “Language serves as a vehicle for expressing thoughts and feelings. And when it comes to diversity, language can be a bridge for building relationships, or a tool for creating and maintaining divisions across differences.”
The Demerara Waves’ story of President Ali “urging an Afro-Guyanese woman to stand telling the audience that she has been working in his home like a family member” and thereby “I don’t need anyone to lecture to me,” on race, Hinds finds off-putting.
According to the businessman, whilst the president’s urging of the woman became his proof that “I’m not racist, I have a black employee…,” those words are interpreted as “arrogance and insensitivity of asking the African woman to stand [which] is so condescending in the circumstances. And not to forget the location being the African village.” The village of Mocha, through the polling of finances, was bought by former enslaved persons.
The United States’ media would facilitate national conversation on the President’s statements, not only because of what was said and who said it, but also importantly, how society received or interpreted the words. Usually, analysts across the spectrum are invited to weigh in, discussing whether the president’s words are racist, as Hinds interpreted them, and if so, what should the president do, including future action, to avoid such interpretation.
In 2007 during the Democratic Party presidential candidate race, then Senator Joe Biden made statements about Senator Barack Obama, both of whom were in the race, which attracted widespread criticisms. Biden’s words were interpreted as inappropriate. Responding to the criticisms Biden said, “I deeply regret any offense my remark in the New York Observer might have caused anyone.”
Race relations in America share many similarities with Guyana, the main difference being the dominant racial group while white in America is East Indian in Guyana.
Hinds has been vocal about the management of Guyana under Ali’s government. On October 16, 2020 he resigned, with immediate effect, from NICIL Board but not before expressing concern about the government’s inhumane treatment of the squatters at Success, East Coast Demerara.
NICIL flooded lands people were occupying in order to remove them, claiming they wanted to plant sugar cane. Flooding the lands resulted in significant loss of properties, livestock, gardens, damages to vehicles, and dislocation of citizens who were in the main African Guyanese.
Speaking to race relations in Guyana and the country’s political economy, the accountant said, “No audit is needed to determine that the current administration is by order of magnitude; discriminating more than any previous PPP administration against African-Guyanese, in both the private and public sector,” and the president is “telling the African-Guyanese don’t believe what you see, have experienced and are experiencing!”
Americans are in constant efforts, sometimes combative, negotiating race relations and working at improving these. The country’s first black President, Barack Obama, famously said actions such as these become necessity “to create a more perfect union.”
A visit to the White House page would see an Executive Order by President Joe Biden “On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” supported by other efforts, including laws and institutions.