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Below is the abridged speech- specific to Guyana and Guyanese in the diaspora- made last Sunday by Ms. Letitia James, Attorney General of New York State, at the meeting hosted by more than 20 United States (US)-based Guyanese organisations, to a capacity filled audience at Woodbine Ballroom, Brooklyn, N.Y. The meeting, according to organisers, was to hold discussions with US Officials regarding excesses of the Guyana Police Force and Government, including transnational repression crimes, and to seek to influence a US foreign policy that would show intolerance for violation of rights, racial and political discrimination; and will support efforts to bring about a better society for all Guyanese.
The speech follows:-
Hello Guyana! We can do better than that. Hello Guyana! Let them hear you back in Guyana. Hello Guyana! Let them know you will not tolerate racism. Hello Guyana, let them know you won’t tolerate corruption. Hello Guyana, let them know that you believe in democracy. Hello Guyana, let them know that you believe in fair elections. Come on, Guyana, let them hear you roar!
I came here to listen, but what I heard is very disturbing. Extremely disturbing. I stand and reaffirm the comments of my brother, Congress member [Hakeem] Jeffries: – the United States will not tolerate racism in Guyana or any other country. And I also want the officials to know that if any harm comes to Rickford Burke, let me say that again, if any harm comes to Rickford Burke or anyone on this dais, or anyone in this room, there will have to be answers. We will immediately demand answers, and I can tell you that someone will be held accountable for those actions.
And for those who are in Guyana, and for those officials who don’t know me, my name is Letitia James. Whether you’re in the White House or the State house, means nothing to me. I fear no one other than my God, and courage is a requirement of this position. Every elected official requires courage and requires having a steel in your backbone, and so I believe in democratic institutions. And I believe that Guyana needs strong democratic institutions, and I will defend that. And I will abhor any discrimination or racism of any people, particularly people from the African diaspora. We also have these in this country. We have attempted to root out corruption, we’ve attempted to address issues of poverty, and we are not perfect in this country.
We still know that there are individuals who unfortunately live in poverty, and we call them out. You see, we believe in the First Amendment in our Constitution, the right to free speech, the right to journalists [having] free and fair ability to report whatever they seek, without any interruption.
We believe that discrimination should be called out. We believe that racism should be called out. We try to call out class struggles as well and so all that I have to say is the following is that I again will along with my democratic attorney generals across the country will be calling upon DOJ (Department of Justice), as well as the Biden administration, to look into the allegations that have been put forth this evening.
We are obviously concerned about any destabilising force on Guyana, and clearly all of the allegations that have been made this evening suggest that there are problems and that they need to be looked at, they need to be examined, and that we cannot ignore it. We can’t put blinders on when people are struggling. And people of African ancestry should not be treated like second- and third-class citizens. Not in this country or any other country, and so I just truly wanna thank all of you for allowing me to say a few words. But Rickford said it best: – We’ve got the power in our hands. The power to vote in Guyana and the power to vote here.
I join with you today again, expressing my concerns with regards to all that I have heard this evening. And I will join with you and stand with you. I’ll march with you and fight for you to stand and defend your rights. I use the law, both as a sword and as a shield, and I will use the powers of my office to stand up and fight on behalf of the Guyanese people.
Thank you so much and God bless you.