A clear and present danger

At a Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) meeting at Buxton, at which Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton was present and delivered a speech, several WPA members made remarks that have been described by the Attorney General (AG) as “capable of amounting to several criminal offences, including but not limited to, sedition, seditious libel, inciting riotous behaviour and exciting racial hostility in order to create a breakdown of law and order within the State of Guyana, if not treason.”
He took pains to note that the comments “cannot be justified under the rubric of freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution”. Article 146 which guarantees such freedom, expressly excepts “…hate speeches or other expressions, in whatever form, capable of exciting hostility or ill-will against any person or class of persons.”
The comments were condemned not only by members of the PPP government, including the President but by a wide cross-section of the populace. One speaker Tacuma Ogunseye declared, “We cannot wait on the elections cycle to resolve this matter” and continued, “… for the WPA in this present campaign, we have some clear objectives. The first objective is to get the African team in a state of battle readiness… the Afro-Guyanese police and soldiers… would stand with Afro-Guyanese in resisting mainly Indo-Guyanese supporting the PPP/C.”
“…Sometimes people tell me that the struggle to remove the PPP will be hard and long but I don’t necessarily agree with them … Because at the end of the day, no government could survive if they don’t have the support of the military and those who carry weapons for the state… The reality is, the army, and the police, are majority African Guyanese… once we organise our people and once, we begin to fight we will ensure that our brothers and sisters in uniform will do the right thing and when they do the right thing this matter is over in days and not weeks… it has to be strategic. The struggle doesn’t necessarily have to be long”.
While there are some who have dismissed the utterances of Ogunseye and others as irrelevant since they have proven incapable of securing significant support after 1992, they miss several points.
First, Aubrey Norton, the Leader of the Opposition that was able to secure more than 200,000 votes in 2020, followed Ogunseye at the podium and chose not to dissociate himself, his party the PNC and his coalition partners from the statements. The WPA has been working assiduously to push Norton into a more aggressive posture since he was elected leader of the PNC.
Secondly, after their trouncing in 1992, the WPA has tried to make a virtue out of necessity by asserting they are not a “mass party” but a “radical” one. They have refused to accept the judgement of the world community that observed the 2020 elections and the recounting of the votes and insist that the PPP government is “illegitimate”. As such that they have directed their call to the armed forces for a coup would be rationalized as performing their “constitutional” duty to defend the republic.
The Chairman of the Joint Services, Brigadier Godfrey Bess was forced to issue a release after the WPA calls. He declared that “irrespective of its ethnic composition the Joint Services of Guyana is an apolitical institution…guided by the constitution…and not guided by any partisan values and interests.” While this call is very apropos, the Joint Services hierarchy must now be very vigilant in detecting and nipping in the bud any attempt to subvert the commendable neutrality the Services have maintained since 1992.
We note also the very racist comments by a female speaker at the WPA’s Buxton meeting directed at Indian Guyanese and which went unremarked by the leader of the PNC, Aubrey Norton.
Several Indian Guyanese members of his party condemned the statements as well as the loud silence. These developments represent a clear and present danger to our republic and must be addressed not by mere words but by condign actions.