Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon on Thursday condemned President Irfaan Ali’s claims that protesters against the killing of three youths had also raped innocent people.
“There are no known police reports of any rape associated with recent protest actions. Yet Mr. Ali, in his statement, among other charges said ‘raping people’s children has nothing to do with justice.’ What rape Mr. Ali? This is a figment of your speechwriter’s imagination,” Mr. Harmon said.
The Opposition Leader stopped short of calling the President a liar. “You are baselessly branding protesters as rapists. It is disrespectful, contemptuous and an expression of disdain for those Guyanese who are outraged at the heinous killing of Isaiah and Joel Henry and most recently Haresh Singh and Chatterpaul Harripaul,” said Mr. Harmon.
The Guyana Police Force refused to respond to several requests by reporters about whether there were any reports of rape and burning of rice fields. The Office of the President later issued a corrected text version of the President’s address that included no reference to incidents of rape.
Mr. Harmon said Dr. Ali’s statements were “irresponsible and false.” “We view the false statement by Mr. Ali as premeditated and designed to incite the public and stoke ethnic animosity among our people,” the Opposition Leader said. Mr. Harmon added that the incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) has consistently misused the spectre of rape to fearmonger and incite public hostility.
The Opposition Leader recalled similar statements had been made by PPP representatives in and out of government, a practice, he said, belittles rape victims.
Against the background of President Ali saying that the Ethnic Relations Commission would be asked to probe alleged statements by Mr. Harmon and Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) David Granger that incited tensions on the West Coast of Berbice, the Opposition Leader called for the removal of Ethnic Relations Commissioner Roshan Khan due to a Facebook post. “The APNU+AFC coalition rejects the PPP politicisation and use of the ERC. Further, we call for the immediate removal of Mr. Roshan Khan from the Ethnic Relations Commission following his divisive and racial statements on Social Media. He is no longer fit to sit on the ERC and must be removed forthwith,” he said.
Mr. Harmon said he and other coalition members have been traversing the West Berbice and other areas calling for peaceful protests.