Saturday, September 3, 2011

Kaieteur News libelled me without a shred of proof, says President Jagdeo

PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday lashed out at those who accused the Government of Guyana of racism, saying that the Administration went above and beyond to ensure that there is no racial discrimination and called its record on the issue a clear one. Further, at a press conference, he said that the Kaieteur News and its editor accused him and the government without any substantiation
The president brought legal action against the publishers and editor of Kaieteur News for articles which labelled the government and the president as racist. Government spokesman Dr. Roger Luncheon has been making court appearances providing what he described as “recall” for the purposes of the hearing.

“There are numerous occasions when the Kaieteur News libelled me and members of the government. They have accused us without a shred of proof,” President Jagdeo said.

He added that in most cases he did not choose the medium of a lawsuit as is the case now.

The president said that while the government finds many of the allegations too spurious to be taken seriously, he is afraid that should a response not be forthcoming, people may interpret this as an indication of guilt.

“I am fearful that if we don’t respond, people will say it must be the truth,” he said. “When they accused me of being racist, I said this one needed to be addressed through the court,” he said.

The president said that rarely would a government allow all of its policies to be scrutinised in the court, especially if it has things to fear, if it has been making decisions based on ethnicity.
“I have no such fear, that is why we can subject ourselves to this,” said the president.

“We have even gone further. [Gay] Mc Dougal came here at our invitation. The UN rapporteur on racism was invited by the government to examine our situation. They couldn’t come here without the Government of Guyana agreeing to this, but we thought it was important,” he said.

“We created the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) and subjected the executive to a situation where they could be sanctioned by a constitutional body. Had we not signed that into law, it would not have been in place,” the president said.

He said that the Government has a good track record of employment practices and transparency of tender process.

The president observed that the Kaieteur News, being the defendant in the case, continues to be biased in its reporting. “I hope that when Dr. Luncheon rebuts their allegations he will be given the same prominence in their newspaper as the allegations against the government had been given.

“I can tear apart every issue that they raise so far; but I don’t want to be accused of prejudicing the outcome,” he said.

Hitting back at the accusation that the government was not favouring blacks in the leadership of State agencies, the president said he could list at least 40 persons of African descent in such positions, among them the Governor of the Central Bank, Lawrence Williams and head of the Procurement Board Donald De Clou.
The president also cited an example where the lead Government Pathologist is the only pathologist in the country, and hence he is the only person that could be at the top of that profession in Guyana.

The President made the point that these persons did not get into these positions of leadership because of their ethnicity, but because of merit.
“This was not an ethnic consideration,” he said.

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