President Irfaan Ali and his delegation engaged in discussions with US House Minority Leader, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, on Thursday. Despite ongoing conversations around racial discrimination and inequities in Guyana, these topics were not addressed during the meeting, according to Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud.
“There was no mention of racial discrimination or the unequal distribution of wealth,” remarked Mr. Persaud to Demerara Waves Online News.
This dialogue with Congressman Jeffries, who also chairs the Black Caucus, comes just before groups associated with the Guyanese opposition plan a two-day conference in Washington DC. This gathering aims to discuss socio-economic and political dynamics in Guyana, with a focus on alleged racial biases against Afro-Guyanese by Dr. Ali's largely Indo-Guyanese supported People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC).
The Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) had previously announced that Mr. Jeffries would be a key speaker at the late September conference. However, Mr. Persaud clarified that the Congressman didn't address these topics in his interaction with President Ali. Notably, one objective of the conference is to reconsider a US$134 million loan for a gas project until governance concerns are resolved.
In August 2021, Congressman Jeffries had stood alongside leaders of the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) in New York, emphasizing unity against racism, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination. Other figures, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Vice President Kamala Harris, had also highlighted the importance of inclusivity.
Yet, during this recent meeting, Mr. Persaud stated that Congressman Jeffries did not bring up the need for inclusion with President Ali.
Sharing insights into the meeting's content, Mr. Persaud mentioned President Ali elaborated on initiatives by his government to promote wealth creation and Guyana’s regional positioning. “The President shared insights into Guyana’s leadership role regionally and elaborated on key policies to ensure growth and unity in Guyana and its neighbors,” Mr. Persaud stated.
Another top official from the Guyanese government confirmed Mr. Persaud’s statement, emphasizing the conversation's focus on constructive matters like climate change and food security. The official also noted US representatives' understanding of how Guyana's oil revenues are being utilized.
In October 2022, New York Attorney General Letitia James had pledged to rally support from Democratic Attorneys General to investigate allegations against the Guyanese government. It's worth noting that politicians like Mr. Jeffries and Ms. James rely on votes from Guyanese and other Caribbean communities in New York for electoral success.
Despite numerous grievances about discrimination in various sectors, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo has urged those affected to formally file complaints with the appropriate authorities