Some Guyana government officials are being accused of attempting to stoke division in the New York Guyanese community. Some New York Guyanese claim the country suffered grave embarrassment when a government delegation that visited New York during the Independence celebration from June 9 – 12, 2017, demonstrated preference for one group of Guyanese over another.
They only attended activities organized by the Guyana Unity Movement (GUM).
The delegation comprised First Lady Sandra Granger, Attorney General, Basil Williams, Minister of Health, Volda Lawrence, Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally, Minister of National Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, Minister of Infrastructure David Patterson and four mayors.
The Brooklyn group was recently formed as a counter force to the Guyana Independence Anniversary Celebration Committee (New York). The committee, which last year organized the historic jubilee celebration, has about 173 members from all races. Members represent 25 organizations in nine states.
Guyana’s Consul General in New York, Barbara Atherly, reportedly exacerbated the conflict by allegedly issuing letters endorsing GUM. She also claimed that the government’s position is that the Independence committee should have been dissolved after the 50th independence celebration.
The committee fired back accusing Atherly of politicizing the committee, and interfering with a not for profit organization in violation of US law. The Committee alleged that letters with Atherly’s signature were sent to its sponsors to block funding.
The committee added that a letter from the Consul General was sent to Rev. Alfred Cockfield of God’s Battalion of Prayers Church to block the Independence Prayer Services resulting in its cancellation.
A letter with Atherly’s signature was also sent to the Brooklyn South Command of the New York City Police Department to block the Guyanese Independence Parade. However, the documents were rejected and the Parade and Unity Concert were held as planed with full NYPD support.
With the exception of Linden Mayor Carwyn Holland, at GUM’s request, none of the officials attended the Independence committee’s celebration, which included the annual Guyanese Independence Parade and Unity Concert on June 11.
Over 10,000 Guyanese attended the parade and concert. GUM’s parallel event on June 11, which the ministers attended, had an abysmal attendance. The ministers were lambasted on social media for being on the opposing side of the people. Observers say it is worrisome that the government officials allowed themselves to be used and misled by GUM. Many question why the ministers appeared beholden to GUM?
Independence committee Chairman, Rickford Burke, in a letter to the press on June 13, alleged Consul General Atherly undermined his Committee to help boost attendance at GUM events. The committee claimed government officials supported GUM whose members tore down its posters, ripped down its banners, as well as smeared and threatened its members, triggering a police investigation.
One minister said the New York trip was poorly organized and marred by confusion.” A mayor agreed, saying he was disappointed.
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