Bitter row erupts over Jagdeo’s comments “on assault on people of Indian origin”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 July 2016, 7:41 by Denis Chabrol

Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo’s accusation that the welfare of Indo-Guyanese is coming under attack since the APNU+AFC coalition took office one year ago has drawn a stinging criticism from the Guyana government.

Speaking recently at a social event in Queens, New York, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) executive member said Guyana’s political, economic and social conditions were worse than in the 1970s and 1980s under the then People’s National Congress (PNC) government of then President Forbes Burnham.

“There is an assault on our democracy. There is an assault on people of Indian origin. There is an assault on supporters of the PPP.  What we thought would never return to Guyana in just one short year, has returned with full force and even worse in some regards than the Burnham era,” he told the predominantly East Indian gathering.

Jagdeo is already on record as saying in March, 2016 that “There is no hidden agenda here. Everyone knows where the bulk of the support of the two parties come from – APNU and PPP. A significant amount of our support comes from rural folks and Indo-Guyanese,” when he was asked whether the PPP has become an ethnic party.

The Burnham era had been characterized by severe food shortages, rigged elections, human rights abuses and claims of racial discrimination.

Jagdeo urged the attendees to cultivate a badly needed community spirit to ensure that “we defend our people through these dark times.” He said since the President David Granger-led administration has since coming to office seized land from title holders and increased about 140 taxes. “…largely targeting poor people but mainly rural poor and if you know who live in the rural areas- it’s mainly our supporters.”

Saying that Guyana has taken a turn for the worse, Jagdeo vowed that whenever elections are called “we gonna take back Guyana.”

The Opposition Leader’s comments in New York drew a strong condemnation from the Guyana government and labeled them “race-baiting, malicious fabrications and falsehoods.”

“At a time when our people are focused on the efforts to foster closer relations and achieve a greater level of social cohesion, the Coalition Government considers it reprehensible that the Opposition Leader, Mr. Jagdeo chooses to sow seeds of division, discord and race hate.

The claim that there is an “assault on people of Indian origin” is despicable, without any basis and a complete figment of Mr. Jagdeo’s imagination. On the contrary, the policies of the Coalition Government are designed to achieve the good life for all Guyanese, not a handpicked few as was the case under the PPP regime which was rejected by the Guyanese electorate on May 11, 2015 in free and fair elections,” the Guyana government said.

The Opposition Leader later responded to what he termed a Prime Minister Moses Nagamoootoo-tainted and said he ignores the reality of many of our Guyanese people – the thousands of young Amerindians who were fired, the many Indo-Guyanese removed from their jobs, the assault on the sugar industry and the non-support of the rice and mining sectors. “Despite the charges made, my record on bolstering racial harmony and advancing equal development across the country, regardless of race, speaks for itself. That is not a position I need to defend. However, I have spoken out and will continue to speak out about the injustices against our people,” he said.

In the statement issued late Monday night, Jagdeo said his position stated in New York that East Indians’ welfare is being attacked by the coalition-led administration is similar to his claims made back home in Guyana that mostly East Indians and Black PPP supporters are being dismissed from government jobs. “What is stranger is that the comments I made in New York were no different to the ones I have made in Guyana – at press conferences and on the campaign trail in the lead up to the March 2016 Local Government elections.  I spoke to the issues of racial and political discrimination, the lack of an economic plan, the taxation policies, as well as the repressive laws that have been advanced and the threats to local democracy under the APNU+AFC Coalition,” he said.

While several persons have been fired from, for example, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), government has also appointed East Indian, Hema Khan as the new Deputy Commissioner General. Similarly, across at the Guyana Chronicle, Michael Gordon was removed from the post of General Manager and replaced by Moshamie Ramotar.

In a libel case Jagdeo vs Freddie Kissoon, then Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon had said that there had been no Afro Guyanese qualified to become ambassadors. Under the current Afro-Guyanese dominated administration, East Indians- Halim Majeed, Shamir Ally and Deep Ford have been appointed top foreign envoys.