Under fire over what has been labelled as racist and inflammatory comments, former president Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday defended his statements made at Babu John on Sunday, saying that he is “proud” of raising the issue of race.
At a specially-convened news briefing at PPP headquarters, Freedom House yesterday, Jagdeo said that by using a derogatory term for Indo-Guyanese, he was bringing light to “whisper campaigns” utilised by the opposition.
He said that media entities were misguided in inferring that he was implying that the People’s Progressive Party is a race-oriented party.
At the event to commemorate the late presidents Cheddi Jagan and Janet Jagan at Babu John, Port Mourant, Berbice, on Sunday, Jagdeo accused the opposition of racism and made comments which have been labelled as racist and racially inflammatory.
When asked by Stabroek News for proof of racial incitements by the opposition in the 2011 general election, Jagdeo could provide none. He said that the evidence was there and his claim that opposition leaders ventured into villages beating drums and making racial remarks could be substantiated even though he was not able to do so yesterday. The former president blamed the opposition for initially engaging in race-baiting citing his unsubstantiated claims of drum beating in villages prior to the 2011 general elections.
He said “They did it in South (Ruimveldt). I hope this doesn’t happen these elections because they did the last elections. We know racism exists we know they use that language to campaign but if we use it we are exacerbating it?
“You should really go after the people who used it in a derogatory way not me who is trying to fight this… Now when I want to fight that you are saying it’s some evidence of some divisiveness …
“I believe that the mere fact we are talking about it here today gives hope that everybody will be vigilant on the campaign, that we don’t use that language. And you as well as me will keep your ears open also for the whisper campaign.
“From the last election to now I can bring maybe five persons who can say we have heard this in our homes or heard that, the drum beating people walking to their homes and saying and shouting this. Would that be enough for you? Or does the Stabroek News want me to sign it and have it notarized and stuff like that?”
Jagdeo, at his first local press conference since he demitted office in 2011, denied subtly using race and instead said that at Babu John he was speaking to a PPP crowd about Cheddi Jagan’s vision of racial harmony.
He said that the PPP was tackling the issue head-on while the opposition would use “whisper campaigns” and privately use pejorative terms differing from what he called their false public personas.
According to Jagdeo, the opposition was using sections of the media to keep the focus away from APNU+AFC’s Presidential candidate David Granger’s public record.
He said that the opposition cannot campaign on their achievements and as a result, are attempting to polarize people with racism. Jagdeo noted that Granger has long been in politics and as a member of the armed forces, he was charged with propaganda writing.
Responding to a question, Jagdeo also said that he was not sure if his presence is an asset or a liability to the PPP’s campaign, but said that since he was called upon, he would serve.
On Monday the opposition came down hard on the former president’s remarks condemning the “cuss down” and “racist” politics.
“Comments such as ‘kick up the asses’ are symptomatic of…Ramotar and…Jagdeo’s public posture of disrespect and contempt for the Guyanese people.
It speaks too to a streak and pattern of violence which has been introduced into PPP public statements. This follows comments by President Ramotar about the slapping of Amerin-dians,” a statement from the coalition said.
“Regrettably even after five presidencies and administering the affairs of this nation for almost a quarter of a century, the bankrupt PPP continues to be a party empty of ideas, unable to articulate a clear vision for Guyana’s development,” the statement added, noting that the party was trapped in the politics of the past.
“It is beyond question now that the PPP has completely strayed from the philosophy of Dr Jagan,” the statement said, adding that the PPP “elite live Cadillac and mansion lifestyles, flying in private jets and spending millions on cosmetic dental work” while their supporters are trucked on crudely assembled vehicles.
The alliance further stated that it was disturbed by Jagdeo’s appeal for racist politics. “His comments about a certain group of people ‘being in’ contradicts all the pleadings of the PPP being a multi-ethnic party representative of all Guyana,” the statement read while calling on all Guyanese to stand united in rejecting the PPP’s cuss down politics.
“APNU+AFC condemns this subliminal call for racist politics which is just a despicable modern call for apaan jhaat. It is time that Guyana is relieved of this cabal of minority PPP rulership,” APNU+AFC said.