TO the people of Guyana and the Caribbean, people across the globe of all ethnicities and walks of life, it is a singular privilege to share my perspective with you on the first 100 days of Mohammed Irfaan’s presidency, a young but experienced President like no other. His Excellency became a member of the National Assembly of Guyana in 2006 and thereafter was appointed to the key positions of Minister of Housing and Water and Minister of Tourism Industry and Commerce. As a minister, his transformational leadership inspired change to serve the people of Guyana and led to his assigned functions of President and Prime Minister on separate occasions. In 2015, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) formed the opposition and subsequently he received overwhelming endorsement as chair of the Public Accounts Committee and co-chair of the Economic Services Committee of the Parliament of Guyana.
With the belief that his country needs his service, the Leader of the Peoples’ Progressive Party/Civic, Dr Mohammed Irfaan Ali was officially sworn in on Sunday, 2nd August 2020, to become the ninth President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. History will record some of his profound words spoken, “My first and last responsibility will be to the people of Guyana; all of them… From this day forward, our one nation and our people must join together to peacefully transition our country to a pathway of economic and social development at home, and respect and regard abroad.”
It comes as no surprise that immediately after taking his oath of office, His Excellency focused on key priorities for progress, bearing in mind contextual realities — he was President of a diverse nation — who was sworn in after the conclusion of the country’s longest and most challenging general and regional elections, and during a time when the world was combating a fatal enemy known as COVID-19.
One recalls His Excellency’s eminent pronouncements, “In my service to Guyana, I will not see a nation divided by ethnicity; I will see a nation cemented in unity…. Every life in our nation matters and my government will ensure that every life is protected from harm.” In addition to his creation of a COVID Response Unit comprising government policymakers, ministers and regional and international partners such as CARICOM, PAHO, and the UNDP, as President, Dr. Mohammed Irfaan Ali has personally participated in his government’s programme to guide medical responses and to create a COVID-19 impact socio-economic plan for all people, including those in the hinterland areas. His Excellency lost no time to “hit the ground running.” His value for life comes from within and its manifestation through his actions to curb the spread of a pandemic will be one of his cherished legacies as President of Guyana.
Over the last 100 days, under President Dr. Mohammed Irfaan Ali, Guyana has shown the world that we can choose a path for peace in the interest of human betterment, a path that is not defined by our differences, but by our common aspirations and hopes. His Excellency has addressed critical questions countries face today — how to promote equality and justice; how to uphold freedom and human rights; how to end crime and violence — acknowledging that these questions do not have easy answers.
His address to the nation on September 9th, 2020, identified national interventions in response to the West Coast Berbice murders and ensuing unrest, as well as mobilisation of an International Commission of Inquiry (CoI)“to hold to account all those who spread race hate and instigate racial strife.” Of major significance, His Excellency added: “The time has come for us to deal with this issue very frontally. The time has come for us to deal with it very seriously and no one must believe that they can use situations like these for any political gain. There is no gain, whether politically, socially, economically, morally or culturally.” This statement captures the President’s thrust that there is a oneness to humanity, that all people in Guyana, as well as people everywhere, are bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that we can only achieve for ourselves by caring for others around us and maintaining peace in the interest of human betterment.
The life story of President Dr. Mohammed Irfaan Ali is similar to that of ordinary Guyanese citizens. Mohammed Irfaan Ali was born to a humble Indo-Guyanese Muslim family in Leonora, a village on the West Coast of Demerara region of Guyana. His parents were both educators who greatly inspired his excellence in academia. He attained his secondary education at St. Stanislaus College in Georgetown, Guyana, and holds a doctorate in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of the West Indies. It is hard to capture in words, not just the facts, the upbringing that makes a life. The essential truth of Mohammed Irfaan Ali is simply his innate qualities of humility that make him a remarkably unique President, an exemplar of history, who within 100 days of assuming office is moving a nation toward justice. Referring to his campaign promises, the President recently expressed “his intention to establish a legal and regulatory foundation upon which a new and modern economy will be built, striking a vital balance between traditional sectors and the new and emerging industries, including oil and gas, technology and communication.” Furthermore, as President, he has intensified Guyana’s partnership with CARICOM and the USA in pursuit of a path of unprecedented economic growth and sustainable development.
Guyana’s watchwords, “One People, One Nation and One Destiny” were encapsulated in poetry and received acknowledgement with a nod of the head by the President at his inauguration ceremony. His Excellency also welcomed back to their homeland, Guyanese who live abroad, in recognition that their national pride remains in Guyana. He further underscored:
“As President, I will have to walk with kings, in our country’s interest, but I assure you that I will never lose the common touch.” For the people of Guyana, for those he inspired around the Caribbean region and the globe, Dr. Mohammed Irfaan Ali’s first 100 days in the Presidential Office denotes a time to celebrate his unwavering commitment to the “common touch” of which he has spoken. I believe that his deliberate initiatives to empower ordinary people to influence government actions calls for self-reflection– “the higher we are placed, the more humbly we should walk.”
Dr. Vashti Singh