â€œ Stabroek News and Rupert Roopnaraine have both gone way too far. I can handle their personal attacks, but I will not stand idly by and allow them to attack Islam, Muslims of this country and the world, and the credibility of my ministry.â€ Those were the sentiments expressed by Housing Minister Irfaan Ali as he announced his intention, and that of the local Muslim community, to sue Stabroek News and APNU member Dr Rupert Roopnaraine for statements made and published in Saturdayâ€™s edition of that newspaper. He deemed those statements â€œ irresponsible, baseless, and a direct attack on Islam and all Muslims of the countryâ€. The offending article, published under the headline: â€œ APNU has room for PPPâ€, alleges in a direct quote that the minister was corrupt and was carrying out the alleged tradition of his ancestors, as it made reference to â€œ the infamous Ali Baba and the 40 thievesâ€. Minister Irfaan Ali said that the move by the newspaper to quote and publish such an â€œ erroneousâ€ statement made by a politician at an APNU elections rally is â€œ unforgivable and deliberate.â€ He said Roopnaraineâ€™s statement cannot stand the test of scrutiny, and he has issued a call for the newspaper and the politician to show facts and evidence to substantiate their claim.
The housing minister declared that the newspaper had demonstrated its religious bias when it decided to publish the statement, and has â€œ degraded, disrespected, ( brought) into public ridicule and caused undue embarrassment to all Muslims of this countryâ€. Ali concluded that Stabroek News had breached a fundamental right afforded to all Guyanese, and a right that the government was working to protect â€“ the right and freedom to chose oneâ€™s own religion and worship.
Even though the newspaper has issued a retraction in its Sunday edition, Ali said, the damage has already been done, and â€œ no apology can suffice the rage that Muslims in the country are feeling.â€ â€œ Stabroek News should be ashamed of itself. It is guilty of breaching the fundamentals of fair, balanced journalism and is party to the treaty made with APNU to degrade Muslims by publishing the â€œ inexplicable statementâ€ made by a politician of questionable character.
Ali alleged that a multimillion- dollar lawsuit would be filed this week and would see Stabroek News and an embattled Roopnaraine being hauled before the courts. He said that he was prepared to take the matter as far as the law would allow, because for him, the statement has publicly attacked the integrity of his office and all Muslims.
â€œ I am prepared to retire to fight this case, if that is required, because SN is abusing its privileged position as media to disrespect Muslims,â€ Ali suggested. He said that the newspaper and Roopnaraine had breached the Representation of the People Act and the Racial Hostility Amendment Act of 2002. The minister has also called on the Ethnic Relations Commission and the Indian Arrival Committee, as well as the Office of the President, to condemn in the strongest possible manner the article and statement.
â€œ They ( APNU, SN) cannot lecture to me about integrity and transparency.
They are trying to fool Guyanese into believing that they want a government of national unity, but from Roopnaraineâ€™s utterances â€œ the wolf in sheepâ€™s clothing has been discovered. It is clear that Muslims cannot form part of this so- called government, which will never exist because APNU has called us all thievesâ€, a vexed Minister Ali charged.
Ali said that media must be balanced and responsible while carrying out their day to day duty.