President Irfaan Ali has offered his “unreserved regret” to those offended by a suggestion in his Arrival Day statement that Africans were among the groups that came to Guyana seeking improvement.
However, he added, “I was not and could not ever have been referring to our African ancestors, who did not come here of their own volition but were captured, brought to our country in chains, and brutally enslaved. Indeed, it is their sacrifice and struggle for freedom and against oppression that should inspire us to continuously secure our freedoms and democracy for a better Guyana.
“To my fellow Guyanese who felt offended by the way in which the language was structured, you have my unreserved regret and assurance that the struggles of our enslaved African ancestors would never be understated and unappreciated. They gave their lives for our freedom and as a nation, we must be forever grateful.”
Ali further reiterated that he is on a mission towards reconciliation after a very divisive period. “This year as we celebrate Arrival Day, we do so with a greater sense of purpose that as a collective we stood together for a free and democratic Guyana,” he said.
Prior to Ali’s clarification, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon wrote to the president and pointed out that the reference to Africans in his statement had no basis in historical fact.
“It is therefore of utmost importance that as political leaders, we strive to be factual in our assessment of these profound historical matters as they have direct implications for the cohesion of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society such as ours,” he wrote, before calling on Ali to urgently correct his statements.