Last Updated on Monday, 16 August 2021, 23:40 by Denis Chabrol
Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon on Monday night castigated President Irfaan Ali for doling out another tranche of GYD$25,000 cash grants, saying it was a ploy to distract Guyanese from spiraling cost of living, no salary increases and perceived racism.
“They are now trying to distract attention from what is happening and the pressure that is being brought to bear. What has happened to the public servants? What has happened to the teachers? You’re just paying $25,000 for this, $25,000 for that, $15,000 for this like if you’re going in the market and you’re shopping. Where is the long-term plan to deal with the skyrocketing prices in the market? Where is the long term plan to deal with the rising cost of living in this country?,” Mr. Harmon said. He called on President Ali to address the conditions under which Guyanese live, cost of living, arbitrary dismissal of public servants, increased wages and salaries for public servants and the working conditions of frontline workers.
The President says almost 65,000 old age pensioners will get GYD$1.6 billion; the 25,000 disabled persons and recipients of public assistance will get GYD$600 million. Additionally, he says 40,000 households that consume no more than 75 kilowatt hours per month will not have to pay electricity bills for one month. He says the GYD$200 million will be paid directly to the state-owned Guyana Power and Light. Dr. Ali says the GYD$2.6 billion relief package will help to put more money in the hands of Guyanese
Mr. Harmon recently headed a delegation that had met with the top brass of the Guyana Public Service Union. President Ali has virtually ruled out wage and salary negotiations with the GPSU and the Guyana Teachers’ Union.
Relying on remarks by Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Hakeem Jeffries’ criticism of the Guyana government at a Guyanese anti-government rally in New York, Mr. Harmon said the GYD$2.6 billion measures announced on Monday were aimed at shifting focus from growing international concern. “These ad hoc measures, they seem to be a desperate attempt by the installed regime to distract attention from what was taking place over the last weekend in New York and the fact that a US Congressman spoke about justice in Guyana and that there must be justice in Guyana,” said the Opposition Leader in an informal Facebook reaction to the President.
Mr. Harmon said the Guyana government was now trying to “reel back” from its more than one year of racist, discriminatory and oppressive policies which have been exposed internationally. “Congressman Hakeem Jeffries called for justice in Guyana. Deal with that! Deal with that now!,” he said.
The Guyana government has since described Mr. Jeffries remarks as “appalling” and has publicly invited him to hold talks with the administration. Previously, the Irfaan Ali-led administration had sought to assure the US administration that Guyana is being governed without discrimination. Bipartisan talks between the government and Harmon’s A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) would not be held, according to the government, unless that coalition admits that it lost the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in a free and fair elections.
The opposition continues to claim that the PPP committed electoral fraud and has since appealed two election petitions that it has lost in the High Court.