President Ali says government committed to racial harmony

Irfaan Ali

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — The ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) said on Monday  it was committed to easing racial tension in the country and appealed to citizens to do everything possible to follow its lead.

President Ali said race conflict is a very important issue not only for his new government but for all Guyanese.

“The government though has a responsibility of charting policies and programmes that reflect the needs and aspirations of all the people of our country,” he said, adding that in terms of public policy and programming, it is essential that they are designed “for all the people of our country, and that’s a great responsibility of the government.

“And that is what you will see reflected in the way we craft our policy,” Ali told reporters as he responded to suggestions that the country has entered into a new phase of racial tension, given the electoral victory of his Indo-based political party over the Afro-Guyanese dominated opposition party.

He argued that traditional media had a role to play in ensuring racial harmony, while being critical of social media in that regard.

“How we capture a headline can be a difference in how people react,” he said having received more than a 1,000 Facebook posts directed at him following the brutal murders of two young men over the weekend.

Police have since said three people are assisting their investigations and former president David Granger, on a visit to the families of the two men on Mondayy, acknowledged that “for the last five years we struggled to build social cohesion; struggled to treat every body equal.”

“Nothing like this never happened for five years and now barely a month and a half ….all lives matter and we must make sure we can protect ourselves and our communities. What you all are doing here is the correct response to crime and the government must protect all citizens, whoever they are, wherever they are,” Ali remarked.

The president said some of the Facebook posts came from people “whom I would have great respect for, for their intellect, their level of education”.

“But their posting is not only damaging and insensitive…it  borders on criminality itself and as your president, I want to say we have to address these issues frontally. We have to not only monitor, but we have to take strong action on social media for some of the hateful posts and speeches that are being pursued on social media”.

Vice-president, Bharrat Jagdeo, meanwhile, blamed the previous administration for festering the race issue, saying that “a lot of unhealthy extreme statements’ were being made by many individuals”.