By prevaricating on the removal of Dr. Bheri Ramsaran from his Cabinet after the former Health Minister had publicly and verbally abused rights activist Sherlina Nageer in Berbice then, following his patently insincere apology, done so again at another forum, immediately after, President Donald Ramotar did neither his own public image nor that of his government any favours. And if it was a mistake to await that sharp burst of political protest before – as he put it in a public interview – doing what he had to do, the President, wittingly or unwittingly, may have caused questions to be raised about the sincerity of his own actions by himself making a statement in the aforementioned public interview to the effect that the dismissal of his seriously delinquent Health Minister was an unfortunate occurrence and that he felt sorry for him, the basis for sympathy being that Dr. Ramsaran was “set up” or baited into unleashing his tirade against Ms. Nageer.
One must of course hope that President Ramotar is not implying in any way that his former Health Minister is vulnerable to being “set up” or baited into publicly abusing and threatening a woman in the vilest fashion. If that is so the question surely arises as to whether Dr. Ramsaran is temperamentally suited to public office in the first place; an equally pertinent question, of course, is whether being “set up” (whatever that means) is some sort of mitigating circumstance that justifies or excuses Dr. Ramsaran’s actions and makes his removal from public office a matter of official regret.
If it is true that much of the fallout from the incident may have been fuelled by the coincidence of the political season two points should be made here. First, it was hardly possible for misdeeds of the magnitude of Dr. Ramsaran’s treatment of Ms. Nageer to be blown out of proportion and, secondly, did the President seriously expect that occurring as it did in the height of the election campaign season Dr. Ramsaran’s outburst and the government’s seeming initial indifference to calls for his removal from public office would have escaped the attention of its political opponents?
In the wake of Dr. Ramsaran’s public abuse of Ms. Nageer the government appeared to believe that a proverbial rap on the knuckles was a sufficient enough sanction. That itself was a serious error in political judgment. As it happened, its discovery to the contrary came only after public opinion, including the opinion of a considerable section of the diplomatic community provided a harsh reminder that gender issues and more particularly the scale of the problem of mistreatment (and murder) of women remains, alongside violent crime on the whole, the most urgent issue on the national agenda.
Dr. Ramsaran’s dismissal did eventually come but then, afterwards, so did the President’s reported pronouncements which appeared very much to want to present the sacked Minister as the victim rather than the villain that he really was.
One conclusion that might well be drawn from the manner in which this distasteful episode has unfolded and particularly from what the President has had to say publicly on the dismissal of Dr. Ramsaran is that the former Health Minister’s removal from the Cabinet was merely an act of political expediency and that he remains very much in favour with the administration. Just what that says about the administration’s real position on the issue of the continually worsening treatment of women (at least two more women have been murdered by their spouses/boyfriends in the past week or so) is a question that the President might wish to answer even as he seeks a mandate for another term in office from an electorate that comprises mostly women.
On the whole – and since national indifference to the issue of the mistreatment of women is by no means confined to any single group in the society – we would do well to cause this incident to remind us of our continually worsening plight of the mistreatment of women and of the need to remove what, all too frequently, are disturbing signs of ambivalence at the highest levels of the society to tackling the crisis head on. Those who rule cannot be excused the sending of mixed signals on this issue.
Sherlina Nagar Amazon author page
Recent article on Sherlina Nageer in Stabroek News
Google page on some of stories on the slap and strip attack on Nageeer