Questionable qualifications of a presidential candidate cannot be ignored

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Dear Editor,
THE issue of the PPP’s de facto presidential candidate, Mr. Irfaan Ali’s, qualifications continues to be a major mystery. It is the first time in the history of the republic that the qualifications of a presidential candidate is suspected to be counterfeit. While the PPP and their friends seem to have no problem with Ali’s questionable qualifications, I consider it a very serious issue.

This is an issue that speaks to the credibility, integrity and moral character of the candidate. Equally, it brings into question the character of the PPP and those who anointed Ali. Let me make it pellucid, I do not claim to know Mr. Irfaan Ali. I have any animosity towards him as a person, and therefore I have no ill feelings or dislike for him. I am sure he must be a good father and husband. Like every other Guyanese who satisfies the constitutional requirements, he too can run for president.

However, I do have a problem with someone who presents himself/ herself as a candidate for political office with a purportedly fraudulent list of credentials/ qualifications. So, I have serious problems with Mr. Ali’s candidacy for this very important reason: the reportedly fraudulent qualifications. The Guyana Constitution is silent on the issue of academic qualifications for presidential candidates, so Mr. Ali had no reason to boast about qualifications he cannot yet prove, he obtained via legitimate scholarly means. There are tons of news reports about him not attaining a first degree but suddenly turning up with a Masters’ Degree. When the cover was blown he claimed to have obtained that first degree from a questionable school on the West Bank of Demerara. Now, you are hearing that the first degree came from some other foreign university that came into existence some eight years after it is alleged that he attended same. What confusion!

Legitimacy
Since Ali claimed the presidential spot of the People’s Progressive Party, he has been burdened by questions regarding the legitimacy of the qualifications he claimed to have earned. These questions will not go away! Ali is not auditioning for a comic show, he has thrown himself up as a presidential candidate for Guyana, therefore, public scrutiny would be the order of the day. Running for president is serious business, and the office itself must be taken seriously! Honesty and character matter! If Mr. Ali cannot be honest with the people on this issue, how can the people trust that he will be honest about matters regarding their livelihoods! The PPP, Jagdeo and Irfaan Ali have a moral obligation to come clean on this disgraceful charade. To allow Ali to evade this matter and refuse to answer questions by the press regarding same, amounts to a grave insult to the Guyanese people.
This kind of political malpractice is a blatant disrespect to voters and an assault to an intelligent and decent people. Politically, Ali would not survive this scandal in any progressive democratic society. Ali’s qualifications predicament raises serious questions about his candidacy and the moral compass of the People’s Progressive Party. How can a party subscribe to such a debased moral code! Is this the best the PPP can do? Is Ali the party’s only choice for president, are the others so unfit for office that they must select someone with such questionable character? I think not, but why have the decent minded members of the PPP remained quiet while Ali is presented as the ultimate “gold standard” of the party! Guyanese must know that while Ali might be the PPP’s “gold standard” or their perception of a model citizen, you do not need to accept him, and your children do not have to emulate him! Cheating is wrong!

Qualifications debacle
Editor, Irfaan Ali’s qualifications debacle present both legal and moral challenges for Ali, the PPP and Guyana. However, since the legal challenge is now before the courts, I will stick to the moral implications. Firstly, it is a national disgrace to continue to promote someone for president, with this huge question mark on his character. In a truly democratic party, the PPP would have had to withdraw Ali’s candidacy. The question of when the party became aware of this apparent “fraudulent conversion” is quite pertinent to any investigation. For instance, if Jagdeo and the PPP knew of Ali’s qualifications conundrum prior to his selection, then the party is complicit in this specious scam on the Guyanese people.
On the other hand, if the party found out about Ali’s qualifications woes after he was elevated to the presidential candidate spot, then a decision ought to have been taken to withdraw his candidacy. The PPP’s failure to act accordingly makes the party equally culpable for this moral disgrace! What message are we sending to our children when we refuse to address this matter seriously! Further, what are we saying to politicians generally? Are we promoting fraud, are we endorsing people with unprincipled character? Is the message to our children one which says to them that it is ok to cheat in an examination, you will still be promoted? If for some strange reason Ali becomes president, what will a minister of education in an Ali government do to address any complaint of widespread cheating in national and regional examinations, by the nation’s children? Can he/she honestly denounce such an occurrence, when the head of government himself would be a suspect of committing such acts! It is sad that the interest of the nation’s children is not even considered when dealing with this shameless situation. Guyana has to be careful with the standards it sets for its leaders, regardless of party affiliation. As a people we are better than this!

Scandal
Secondly, this Irfaan Ali qualifications scandal may have lasting implications for Guyana. Can you imagine Ali as president of Guyana with this shameless cloud over his head! Such a reality would make Guyanese the ultimate laughing stock of the Region and the world! To elect a man with questionable qualifications and 19 fraud charges as president may question the moral character of the nation! How would regional and world leaders, view and interact with Ali, with the question mark qualifications and 19 fraud charges! Imagine the apprehension and the questions that may linger in their minds. If a man cannot be honest about his own qualifications, how can he honestly conduct business in the interest of his nation? Guyanese, this is a very serious matter! Unlike some, I do not take it lightly as I am too concerned about the lessons our children will be learning from this scandal and the precedents being set. We have to be mindful of the moral barriers we are prepared to lower in the interest of partisan politics. This issue is bigger than Ali. There are many PPP supporters who are decent-minded people; they love their children, as I love mine. They will want their children to subscribe to high moral values, like I hope for mine. I know that they do not endorse cheating or acquiring qualifications by fraudulent means. They are not like some of the party’s supporters on social media who are claiming that the matter of Ali’s qualification is not important. They are the minority. I therefore, call on the majority of PPP supporters to put your children first, put them before any political candidate’s personal interest. Your children matter, the children of Guyana matter! We must be concerned about the realities we present to our children and the stance we take on matters of such grave moral import! Truth matter! Morality matter! Your silence on this issue may send the wrong messages to your children. Don’t wait when you may want to run for president to denounce Ali, because your non-response now will be judged against you at that time. Ali has to come clean on his qualifications. I am sorry that the court may not hear the matter on this important issue until after March 2, 2020. If he is cleared and there is proof that he has obtained his qualifications via non-fraudulent means, I am prepared to recant my views here. Until then, I still see him as a candidate with a huge moral baggage, not fit to be the standard bearer of Guyana. I will leave the 19 fraud charges for another time. However, that too is a disqualifying. One charge is too many! We can do better than this!

Regards
Lurlene Nestor