President Irfaan Ali said race conflict is a very important issue not only for his new government but for all Guyanese collectively.
“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.
But he said the 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 thousand Facebook postings sent to him following the brutal murders of two young men over the alst 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 Monday, acknowledged that “for the last five years we struggled to build social cohesion, struggle 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,” he added.
But Ali said some of the Facebook postings 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. But their posting 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”.
Ali reiterated that some of the assumptions made on those social media posts were “damaging and have serious implications” and that addressing race relations “requires a level of maturity from every stakeholder.
“It requires some level of responsibility from every stakeholder. So yes, as a government we will address the issue through our policies and programmes,” he said, adding that the Youth Advisory Council will have a major component of having to work on race relations “to create a new culture, a new environment, a new sense of purpose to go out there in at risk communities and to develop a framework of action that the government could pursue”.
Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo, blamed the last administration for festering the race issue saying that “a lot of unhealthy extreme statements’ were being made by many individuals.
He said the ones who have done the least for race relations and “who may have had a deliberate campaign to exacerbate race relations they continue with this now out of government.
“Some of them have the least credibility, they would not bat an eye lid to take away GUY$600 million from the pensioners, pensioners of every race, every colour,” Jagdeo said, noting that the policies of the new government were aimed at providing for all members of the society.
“Cleary it is the policy that matters when they took away the vehicle or stop importing vehicles over eight year old, do you think it affected persons of one race, it affected all Guyanese. They only care now to stir up trouble and so yes we do have issues…but we have to keep working at it and keeping the focus of what is important to our people,” Jagdeo added.