Home Letters President Irfaan Ali demonstrated grace, dignity, respect
President Irfaan Ali is my President; he is our President. I am proud of our President. In his short stint so far, as our President, he has shown he is a class act. President Irfaan Ali has shown he is a people’s person, interacting with his people in every corner of our country. Every day, we see our President fighting for our country, fighting for every Guyanese. One word that could never be used to describe Guyana’s present President is aloof.
In his message to the Guyanese people to mark Arrivals Day, on May 5, the President made reference to the ancestors of Guyanese people whose arrival we observe and celebrate on May 5 as persons who came here to find better lives. He clearly was not referring to those of our ancestors who came in chains, brutalized and kidnapped, to be slaves. But some persons misrepresented his statement as diminishing the struggles of our African ancestors. Some made an issue of the President’s words with malicious intent. But there were others who genuinely misinterpreted the statement.
The President wasted no time in ensuring people are aware of his intention and unreservedly apologized to all those who might have felt offended by his statement. President Irfaan Ali did not quarrel with anyone for interpreting his statement in a manner he never intended. Rather, President Ali accepted responsibility for not being more clear and for leaving room for persons to misrepresent what he said. This is what genuine human beings do. The President accepted head-on that he could have stated his intentions more clearly and he apologized for those who felt hurt. He showed grace and dignity, he showed class, he showed respect to the people he might have hurt.
Apologizing is not what weak leaders do. Strong leaders are able and willing to apologize. In apologizing, President Ali did not focus on those who might have deliberately misrepresented what was said. He focused on those persons who he might have inadvertently hurt. He owned that their hurt was his fault and he said sorry. The President showed he was not above anyone.
Contrast President Ali’s behavior with another President, his predecessor. President David Granger subjected this country to a horrendous five-month long siege. Between March 2 and August 2, 2020, Guyana and the world witnessed the most brazen attempt to thief an election. For the purpose of this missive, it is not important to consider who was the leader of the thieving gang. But the whole world knew there was a thieving gang determined to thief the March 2 elections. During those five months, COVID-19 was allowed to seed itself. Today, we are suffering the consequence of that early seeding of the population, allowing COVID-19 to spread across the country. During those five months, Guyana’s economy came to a screeching halt. Whether David Granger was in charge of the gang or not, he was the President as the world watched in dismay at the brazen thieving of a whole election. It was unconscionable for David Granger to allow this merciless siege to last for five months. His own son-in-law stood up and said he would not be part of a thieving gang. Whether Granger was in charge or not, he certainly aided and abetted the brazrn thieving attempt by his silence and refusal to stop the nonsense.
David Granger owes this country an apology. He owes the Guyanese people an apology. There is a small section of the Guyanese people who supported the attempts to thief the election. But there is a larger group of Guyanese who felt betrayed, who were massively hurt by what happened during those five months. Granger has heard the call for an apology. he responded by digging in. His response more than a year after the attempted thieving is to sue three newspapers and Kit Nacimento for a billion dollars for accusing him of helping to thief the elections. If you are the President and you see the obvious attempt to rig the election and did nothing about it, who is responsible? The time has come for Granger to do the right thing, the decent thing. He must take a cue from the present President, follow the example of President Irfaan Ali and graciously apologize to the Guyanese people, the people who granted him the honor to be Guyana’s President for five years.
President Ali’s graciousness is a lesson lost on another senior member of the APNU/AFC leadership – Ms. Amandza Walton-Desir, a lawyer, an MP and the shadow foreign affairs minister. She described the PPP base as a “bunch of mentally lazy people”. More than 233,000 people voted for the PPP. More than 400,000 Guyanese are supporters of the PPP, including more than 100,000 persons too young to vote. She disrespected the majority of the Guyanese people. But she did not really say all the people who voted for the PPP. She was talking about the PPP base. So who is the PPP base? I will leave this a rhetorical question. Answer as you will. Clearly Ms Walton-Desir not only disrespected a large group of people, she also hurt them emotionally. And she was guilty of a racist remark.
The simple thing to do, if she misspoke, was to apologize. Instead, she and her party have decided to double down on the assault on the majority of the Guyanese people. The controversy could have simply gone away with a simple statement that she was sorry for inadvertently insulting so many people. But she was not sorry, she was in no mood to apologize. Like Mr. Granger, Ms. Walton-Desir showed no class, no dignity, no respect for people.
President Irfaan Ali has shown what a genuine leader is. We must be inspired by his willingness to accept fault, to look at the Guyanese people eye-to-eye and say “I am sorry”. I am proud of my President.
Dr Leslie Ramsammy