Bolstering Racial Hostility Act, stronger penalties discussed at inaugural Presidents’ engagement

His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali said one of the key issues discussed during today’s engagement with the former Presidents was the achievement of national unity and the strengthening of mechanisms to support it.  

The Head of State disclosed this following the high-level meeting held at State House, which had important discussions between the sitting President and former Presidents, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, Mr. Donald Ramotar and Mr. Samuel Hinds.

Former President David Granger did not attend the engagement.

Key among the mechanisms discussed to bolster national unity was the existing Racial Hostility Act.

President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali

“The whole issue of National Unity, how do we achieve national unity were discussed. What are some of the targeted things we can do? How do we look for example at the Racial Hostility Act to make it stronger with greater penalties for those who are bent on creating mischief and dividing our people?”

Since assuming office, President Ali has been vocal on the prevalence of race baiting as well as the increase of racial hatred and hostility particularly on social media.

During an address to the nation in September, the President issued a stern warning that perpetrators and instigators of race baiting will be persecuted to the fullest.  

“It deeply grieves me, therefore, when I see almost every day on social media, the degree of race baiting, racial hate and racial hostility which pervades the social media platforms. I want you to know that it is my determination to do everything within my power and to use all the laws at my disposal to put an end to this behaviour, which can only result in dividing our country and our people,” President Ali had stated.

He had also reminded Guyanese that while freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Constitution as a fundamental right, it does not relate nor extend to hate speeches or other expressions capable of exciting hostility or ill-will against any person or class of persons. “I further remind that such conduct, publications and utterances constitute grievous criminal offences under the Racial Hostility Act, Cybercrime and other similar penal legislation; and the State will not hesitate to resort to these provisions in our laws in appropriate circumstances.”

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