Vile, sexist and repugnant
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Prime Minister, Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips
Prime Minister, Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips

— Mayor Narine joins Prime Minister Phillips, government ministers in condemning APNU’s Sherod Duncan’s crass attack on Minister Manickchand

VILE and repugnant were the words used by Mayor of Georgetown, Ubraj Narine, to describe a social media post made by his colleague in the Opposition, Sherod Duncan, and directed to sitting Education Minister, Priya Manickchand.
“The lyrics of which are gross and distasteful,” Narine said, as he joined a long list of persons who condemned Duncan’s social media attack on Minister Manickchand.

Education Minister, Priya Manickchand

In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, the city Mayor encouraged “every right-thinking Guyanese” to reject the post, which came in the form a “song which must not be tolerated in our country”.

“Women form the backbone of our nation and are our first connection to the world,” the Mayor argued. He added: “Our women must be protected and must not be used or abused for cheap political points. The people of Guyana must not be exposed to such crass behaviour despite political differences.”

Narine believes that the song, posted by Duncan, a sitting Member of Parliament for the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) “serves no other purpose than to foment an already fragile society”, which is also facing a crisis in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic.

APNU+AFC’s Ubraj Narine, Mayor of Georgetown

The Mayor, also a member of the APNU+AFC, said that he is disappointed by the post and “encourage that our energies are directed to develop our country for all of Guyana to benefit”.

He said: “We must ensure that our constitutional rights are safeguarded and that our citizens especially our women feel safe. I pray that good sense prevails, and this song is removed from circulation.”

Similar sentiments were shared by Prime Minister, Brigadier (ret’d), Mark Phillips who also condemned Duncan’s “unconscionable attempt to sully the good character of Minister Manickchand, particularly when the minister has tirelessly been working to curtail learning loss and ensure that our children are educated in a safe environment amidst the difficulties posed by the pandemic”.

The Prime Minister said that over the past year, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Government has gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of all Guyanese and to minimise the negative socio-economic impacts of these challenging times.

“It is disappointing that some sections of society may find it entertaining to target the Minister of Education with such distasteful messages,” PM Phillips reflected. He indicated that such divisive actions by agitators to make light of matters of national importance and to disrespect the country’s female leaders only serve to create a wedge between the people of Guyana.

APNU+AFC Member of Parliament, Sherod Duncan

PM Phillips also called on all citizens to discourage any further propagation of offensive messages, and to be more responsible and understanding of “the pressures that challenge us daily as we continue to deal with the pandemic”.

“We must not allow toxic behaviours to influence us,” the PM said, adding: “Let us all take up the responsibility of creating a nation built on respect for our fellow citizens, for it is only through mutual respect that we can achieve the unity towards which we all strive.”

Women’s rights activist, Bibi Ahamad, also lent her voice in condemnation of the post, and called for Duncan to make a public apology, immediately. “We can’t condone this type of behaviour and there is a need for a code of conduct for MPs [Members of Parliament] and sanctions for this despicable and unwanted behaviour…he [Sherod Duncan] has gone too far,” Ahamad said.

The “lawless and disrespectful onslaught” on Manickchand was also heavily condemned by Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, who reasoned that “In a world where we are all fighting for the rights and respect of women every day, it is contemptible that an MP who sits in the highest forum of the land will spew and share this level of nastiness against a woman.”

She said: “I understand that there may be opposing views on many issues, but to descend to this level of vulgarity is unacceptable and these perpetrators must be called out. I condemn this utterly disgusting kind of behaviour and I hope those who speak out on respect for women will join me in condemning this.”

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira also lambasted Duncan for the post, calling it “another act that illustrates the depths of depravity that permeate the PNC/APNU/AFC and Guyana Teachers Union circles.”

“The lyrics of the song are close renditions of the distasteful chants used during the PNC/APNU/AFC and Guyana Teachers Union attempted protests. Whilst many of these chants went unnoticed, “Rape! Rape! Priya trying to rape we” was undeniably among the most abrasive and abhorrent statements to be made about a Guyanese woman,” Teixeira posited.

She said that President, Dr. Irfaan Ali and his entire Cabinet are shocked by Duncan’s post, which demonstrates “yet another occurrence in a stream of incidents of bullyism, sexism and misogyny on social media and in street protests” which have “progressively worsened” since the March 2020 General and Regional Elections.

“One cannot help remembering the public personal attacks by the then Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, against professional women in government service in 2016 and 2017,” the minister recalled.

She also pointed to “the vile racist and sexist attacks and threats to the safety of the Canadian High Commissioner, H.E. [Lilian] Chatterjee, and US [United States’] Ambassador H.E. Sarah Ann Lynch, who dared to represent the positions of their principals in their capitals supporting the democratic will of the people be upheld.”

Teixeira also referenced the stream of abuse and intimidation meted out to the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Motley, in 2020. “These few examples demonstrate a pattern of reprehensible behaviour that is of such decadence that it is undermines the values and laws of our society,” Teixeira said.

She believes that one must also ask why the “leaders of the Guyana Teachers Union, an organisation comprised overwhelmingly by women, and, who teach girls in our schools, representing 50 per cent of the school population, support songs and chants which surreptitiously mock the pervasive crime of rape? How can parents trust these teachers with their daughters?” Teixeira queried.

She believes that Duncan’s attacks also raise questions in relation to the inactivity of the women’s and rights organisations which, she said “were so active in 2011 condemning a former minister.” “Their somnambulism over the last 10 years is instructive,” the People’s Progressive Party/Civic member surmised.

She further questioned, “Are they so compromised that it is acceptable to harass, threaten and disingenuously implicate a PPP/C woman and subject her to other criminal acts?”

The Government Chief Whip maintained that “As Guyanese, we should be outraged by these escalating incidences fermented and orchestrated by the PNC/APNU/AFC leaders and activists, and, now joined by the Guyana Teachers Union, and denounce them with no conditions.”

She shared the belief that “If we fail as a people to stop this behaviour then all of our daughters, sisters, nieces, female cousins, wives, grandmothers, aunts, girlfriends, fiancées, and female friends will all be in great danger of being victims to this bullyism, sexism and misogyny, and worse yet, rape and other sexual offences.”

She asserted: “This is the time for all to condemn this behaviour as unacceptable and to dissociate publicly from all who promote this depravity, and threaten the safety of all women and girls in our country.” Since the video surfaced, none of Guyana’s women’s rights groups have issued any condemnation of it.

Duncan, via his streamed programme, ‘In the Ring’ has been making many statements that are believed to be disrespectful and brazen. It was only recently that he used a similar forum to accuse the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) of being “gangsters and hustlers”.

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