Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection Keith Scott last evening told Indigenous leaders that he will not apologise over a remark he made in Parliament which was interpreted to mean that Amerindians had shown greed in their land claims.
Scott said he did not believe he insulted anyone. This was his response to a suggestion made by a participant of the National Toshaos’ Conference that he apologise for utterances made on June 16, 2017 in the National Assembly where he claimed that in objecting to the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on land matters, the Toshaos Council had “manifested an attitude of avarice which should not be condoned.”
The minister suggested to the participant that he recheck what was said in the National Assembly and understand the context of it before asking for an apology.
It was Scott’s response that then prompted Vice-Chairman of the National Toshaos Council (NTC) Lenox Shuman to ascertain from him whether he believes he is still capable of properly serving the indigenous peoples of Guyana.
“I remember the remarks which were centred on the land commission of inquiry where the very Minister Keith Scott said that the Indigenous Peoples have an attitude that is avarice… given that you, the Minister [have] insulted all of Guyana’s Indigenous Peoples, do you still think that you have the credibility and integrity to represent the social issues of the Indigenous peoples?” Shuman asked.
Again, Scott responded by reiterating the need for persons to read and understand the context of what he had said in the National Assembly, before adding that he has no intentions of retracting his statements and/or issuing an apology of any sort since he does not feel he offended anyone.
“You must read and see the context to understand why I said what I said and I am not retracting anything I said because I never have, and never ever will insult another people… I will never insult another race, I will never insult another people, what I can say is that I was of a view that is said clearly in my speech has nothing to do against the people of Amerindians. I was speaking about the Amerindian Toshaos Council who had made some statements and it were those statements that I was responding to,” he said.
He continued by saying, “…any council that purports to represent a body of people whether it is Amerindians, East Indians or Blacks or whatever, whenever that council forgets its responsibility or misrepresents what it is supposed to be representing and I have to stay something on it .I will have no hesitation whatsoever in telling them that they have gone off line and that is exactly what I did and to that they can get no apology. But like I said I am not here tonight to rehash Parliament…. “
It was at this juncture that Chairman of the NTC Joel Fredricks interjected to say, “Honourable Keith Scott, I am chairman of the Toshaos Council, it is our conference and it a concern of our indigenous peoples that is why we decided to raise it here.”
“As a leader from the age of 27, I have led different organisations and as leaders sometimes we say things without thinking and we offend people. I am a leader and as recently as Monday or Tuesday I apologized to the Honourable (Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs) Sydney Allicock and leaders. You are never too big to apologise if we say something wrong, that is serving your people,” he added.
In his rebuttal, however, the minister said, “I was taught in church and in school that you only say sorry when you are sorry but when you are convinced that you are not attacking people, when you are convinced that the persons you are representing are …misrepresenting you and I pull them up, then they must accept that perhaps they are wrong in their utterance.”
“I am not going to utter an apology for that. If I say something wrong by first virtue, I will say that I have done something wrong because I have done so before in Parliament… I did not insult you but I saw the political side of what you said and I also saw the comments you made about the commission of inquiry… I had pointed out that 14% of Guyana was given to Amerindians, but all these years Blacks who have done so much for this country, from slavery to now, have gotten nothing… I am certain too that many of us didn’t know that there were moves to get an additional 10% of Guyana, I brought that out… We are not saying that we are taking away anyone land but you need to look at the entire speech and let us look the contents and then we can have discussions…,” the minister added.
Last evening’s exchange was not the first time the issue was brought fore at the conference as it was previously reported that during Monday’s opening Fredericks criticised both sides of the National Assembly for failing to object to a government MP’s representation of the NTC as “greedy.”