Last Updated on Friday, 7 July 2023, 19:35 by Denis Chabrol
President Irfaan Ali on Thursday said he confronted United States Democratic Party’s top leader in the US House of Representatives, Hakeem Jeffries about refusing to meet with Guyana government representatives to hear their perspectives on claims of racism against Afro-Guyanese.
“I sought to educate Congressman Jeffries about Guyana and about the narrative that may have misled him so I was happy that I had the opportunity to meet him and to once again invite him to a meeting and to seek any concerns he would have had and to educate him on Guyana, and not myself alone, I was happy that other leaders were there,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.
Dr Ali said he was able to provide the American Congressman with a fuller, truer and more meaningful understanding about Guyana “and I am very happy that the listening ear was available.” Pressed on whether he was able to provide details to Mr Jeffries, whose constituency includes Guyanese and other Caribbean nationals in New York, he said “our personal engagement did not go to that extent.” “I made it clear to him that we have all the statistics, information, anything that will help him in understanding the truth and the reality,” he added.
On Friday, President Ali noted that repeated efforts to have a meeting with Congressman Jeffries had failed, and when he saw him on the sidelines of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit in Trinidad earlier this week, he voiced his concern to Mr Jeffries in the presence of other regional leaders.
But the Guyanese leader said he told Congressman Jeffries personally that he would be ready to meet with him in Washington DC. “I have my agenda open if he is available,” he said.
Mr Jeffries, who had shared an opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) political platform in New York in August, 2021 with People’s National Congress Reform’s Aubrey Norton, had expressed solidarity with attendees to deal with the situation in Guyana and had vowed not tolerate racism, hatred, xenophobia, racially motivated violence, discrimination and injustice. Other Democratic Congressmen, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Vice President Kamala Harris had separately cited the need for inclusion and transparency.
Mr Blinken on Thursday made passing reference to previous talks he had with President Ali last year in Washington DC.
The largely Indo-Guyanese-backed People’s Progressive Party Civic-led administration, for its part, has repeatedly denied accusations of racial discrimination against Afro-Guyanese who mostly support the People’s National Congress Reform-led coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change.
Secretary of State Blinken, on Twitter, referred to a meeting he held with Opposition Leader Norton at the American embassy in Georgetown on Thursday. “While visiting Georgetown, I met with Guyanese opposition leader Aubrey Norton and learned about his vision for Guyana. Constructive opposition is essential to a vibrant and stable democracy.