GEORGETOWN (Reuters) - Guyana’s Health Minister Bheri Ramsaran was fired on Wednesday for threatening to slap and strip a female rights activist in an altercation caught on tape outside a court.
In the April 20 incident, women’s and children’s rights campaigner Sherlina Nageer confronted the minister outside a tribunal where he was leading supporters of a former president, Bharrat Jagdeo, accused of making racist statements.
“We have women and children dying under your watch. What are you doing here wasting time?” Nageer demanded of the minister.
During the argument, recorded by journalists present, Ramsaran told her: “Shut your mouth and get out my face ... You idiot ... Get the hell out of my face ... F off ... you’re a little piece of shit.”
Later, after Nageer had also insulted him then walked off, the minister told two reporters: “I would slap her ass you know, just for the fun ... I can have some of my women strip her.”
A statement from President Donald Ramotar’s office, carried by state news agency GINA, said Ramsaran had been relieved of his duties and replaced following a meeting with the president.
“The President reiterates his outrage at the verbal outbursts and insults uttered by the Minister,” it said.
Ramsaran did apologize last week, but then told officials he believed Nageer was a miscreant probably suffering from rabies and in need of psychiatric help. Ramsaran could not be immediately reached for comment.
Nageer told Reuters she was not appeased by Wednesday’s dismissal of the minister, and the government needed to root out offensive behavior by officials across the board.
“I am quite certain if elections weren’t around the corner it would not have happened. Clearly, this is a political ploy,” she told Reuters, referring to the upcoming national election on May 11 in the former British colony.
Ramotar himself was caught at the end of last year telling a man he was “stupid” and deserved a slap after he made comments about former leader Jagdeo.
Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Ted Botha