President David Granger yesterday said the investigation into the alleged use of a racial slur by Public Information and Press Services Officer Lloyda Nicholas-Garrett found that there was no malice intended and as such the matter is now closed.
“…Ms Garrett has spoken and an investigation was done and we are satisfied that there was no malice and we’ve moved on from that”, Granger told reporters at State House yesterday.
Several weeks ago opposition Member of Parliament Nigel Dharamlall shared on his Facebook page screenshots of a private Facebook conversation between the officer and friends. In one of the screenshots Nicholas-Garrett allegedly used a racially derogatory term to describe staff at the Ministry of the Presidency. As a result, an investigation was launched.
Granger yesterday was asked about the outcome of the investigation. He repeatedly stressed that while one has to look at the context in which the derogatory term was used, efforts have to be made to rid our vocabulary of such words.
“I think we have to put things in context and I am satisfied with the work Ms Garrett has been doing, she’s a professional officer in the Ministry and I am convinced… that the word that was actually used was not done with any malice and as I said we’ve moved from that. I am very confident with working with her. I believe that many people are aware of the language we speak in Guyana and you mustn’t try to separate it from the context in which it was used”, he said after making reference to a recent article written by Ravi Dev in one of the daily newspapers in which the same word allegedly spoken by Garrett was used.
He said that sometimes he has to remind people to “be extremely careful” because sometimes “slurs” are used to identify places.
“I think we have to have a campaign to purge our vocabulary of those slurs”, he said adding that there are places in the hinterland which are named after indigenous people “not necessarily in a very pretty light”.
He added “I think we need to have a greater effort to remove those words completely from our day-to-day vocabulary”, he said before referring to famous poem with a derogatory word which was written by Martin Carter.
“So we have to look at in it context and as I said there is no malice intended and we perhaps need collectively to purge the language completely of those slurs’, he stressed.
In earlier remarks, Granger had told reporters at the 32nd anniversary of President’s College that he had “examined the information that was presented to [him] and discussed it with members of staff of that section.”
The Head of State noted that “it is not policy of the Ministry of Presidency and certainly not [his] policy to engage in that type of language.”
He also said that it was his belief that the comments being shared on social media were not something that represented Nicholas-Garrett’s “personal philosophy.”
Dharamlall, who himself has in recent months made several public statements which were derogatory and racist in tone, accused Nicholas-Garrett of using “highly racial and very derogatory terms in conversations with her friends as they describe their fellow Office of the President colleagues,” whom he believes are Guyanese of Indian descent.
He called for her to be sacked and for her to undergo a “period of race relations rehabilitation”.
Nicholas-Garrett has not spoken publicly about the matter and was standing near Granger yesterday when he commented on it.
Nicholas-Garrett once worked with the Ethnic Relations Commission.