Deputy Mayor distances self from Mayor’s Islamic comments; Mayor apologises

Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 December 2022, 22:11 by Denis Chabrol

Deputy Mayor Alfred Mentore (left) and City Mayor Ubraj Narine

As the outcry continues over Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine’s comments about Islam, Deputy Mayor Alfred Mentore on Tuesday said he does not support those offending comments but he is in solidarity with the vendors who operate food caravans and stalls on New Market Street opposite the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH).

Mr Mentore said the comments made by Mayor Narine do not reflect his own views and those of several other Councillors. “Deputy Mayor Alfred Mentore wishes to distance himself from the unfortunate utterances made by the Mayor regarding President Ali, with specific reference to comment pointing to a ‘Muslim State’,” he said.

As Mr Narine and vendors resisted efforts by police and Public Works workers to remove the more than 20 caravans and stalls, he questioned whether it is because President Irfaan Ali is a Muslim and he is a Hindu that the Guyanese leader does not want to work with him. He also queried whether Guyana would become a Muslim State.

Several Muslim organisations- the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG), Muslim Youth Organisation (MYO), Darul Uloom Madrasah Arabia Islamia, Guyana Islamic Trust and the Guyana United Sad’r Islamic Anjuman- jointly condemned the Mayor’s remarks and defended Dr Ali as someone who is working in the interest of all Guyanese.

The Deputy Mayor said the bitter words could have been avoided if the Mayor and City Council and the the Public Works Ministry had collaborated on the removal of the vendors . “Having not met and without any dialogue, their arbitrary removal then opened doors for politicization of the issue and comments made thereafter. Hence, the haste may be like one brick in an ocean that carries rippling effect!,” he said. 

Mayor Narine has since publicly apologised on his official Facebook page for the comments he made as efforts were being made to remove the caravans and stalls that are the livelihood of ordinary, poor Guyanese. “As I witnessed this, I unfortunately made statements that members of the Christian, Muslim, Hindu and religious bodies found offensive and I unreservedly apologise,” he said.

In line with an approved motion by the Mayor and Councillors on Monday, December 12, Mr Mentore urged dialogue between the City administration and Central Government to avoid the casting of aspersions in future. The Deputy Mayor said that as a council, they are prepared to work with any religious group, organisation, denominations and Central Government.

Zadok Ministers Fellowship, in dismissing the Mayor’s statements, said there is no place for religious supremacy and racism in Guyana, a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. “The Mayor’s utterances are, therefore, highly regrettable, unfounded and unsubstantiated and are not reflective of the Guyanese reality,” that Christian organisation said.

The Guyana Pandits Council condemned Pandit Narine’s comments in his capacity as City Mayor, and instead called for love, tolerance and unity instead of hate and divisiveness.  “We believe strongly that his words were inappropriate and highly disrespectful to the President of Guyana, His Excellency Doctor Irfan Ali and the Muslim community. Guyana is a country in which all religions are treated equally and allowed to practice their ideals and principles freely,” the Council said.

The Private Sector Commission and Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn have called on the Mayor to resign. Mr Benn said earlier Tuesday that police have been asked to investigate the Mayor’s utterances.

Central government wants the caravans and stalls removed to allow for easy access by vehicles that are transporting emergency cases to the hospital. While the Mayor said City Hall is responsible for New Market Street, Public Works Minister Juan Edghill said central government has residual authority over all roadways.