One day after he proclaimed that, should he be charged with exciting racial hostility, he would “plead guilty with explanation”, the Guyana Police Force (GPF) on Thursday issued a wanted bulletin for Working People’s Alliance (WPA) executive member Tacuma Ogunseye.
Although the bulletin stated that the 71-year-old man is wanted for several serious offences, it did not detail the nature of these offences. Also, it said that the pensioner is wanted for attempting to excite hostility or ill-will on the ground of race, contrary to Section 3 of Guyana’s Racial Hostility Act.
Ogunseye allegedly committed the crimes on Thursday, March 9, at Buxton Public Road, East Coast Demerara, where he was addressing a public meeting held by his party.
Ogunseye’s last known address is Lot 219 Section ‘C’ Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown. Anyone who knows the whereabouts of the suspect is asked to contact the Police at: 225-6940, 225-8196, 226-7476, 225-2317, 225-8196, 227-1149, or at the nearest Police station.
All information would be treated with strict confidence, the Police have said.
“Nothing to apologise for”
The statements made at the political party meeting have faced widespread condemnation from a wide cross-section of civil society and Government, including some Opposition members, such as Geeta Chandan-Edmond, Ganesh Mahipaul, Daniel Seeram, and Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine; as well as Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo and other members of the PPP/C.
Although Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton had questioned Ogunseye’s choice of words, he had also defended the politician’s right to free speech.
During a virtual press conference earlier this week, Ogunseye, with support of the WPA members, said there is “nothing to apologise for or retreat from”, while noting that he is ready to defend any charges brought against him by the Police.
“We are prepared to use civil disobedience as an effective political weapon… When we look at the lineup of charges they have been uttering, treason seems to be the most severe of the threats,” Ogunseye said. “WPA publicly resolved that once they come with treason charges, we will not treat it as a legal matter. We will see it as a political matter, and I would go to court and plead guilty with explanation. That is our attitude to the charges.
“And as far as I know, they have not made contact with any WPA person who spoke on the platform…our choice of language, we’re not in Parliament,” he added. “We’re at the street corner, and our understanding of the Guyana street corner politics is: when you go to the street corner, you gotta roll up your sleeves. Our language was appropriate for the street corner,” Ogunseye said. He is adamant that his words were appropriate in the context of “street corner” politics.
As of Wednesday, he related, he had not been contacted by the Police, nor did the law enforcement agency contact any member of that party.
Meanwhile, at a recent press conference, Dr Jagdeo called on the Police Force to take action once it determines the law was breached. While he pointed out that the Police often get intimidated in cases that involve political players, he maintained that the Police have to act impartially.
“If they (politicians) breached the law, then the Police have to act swiftly on these matters that can cause a rift among our people. We have to fight racism with every bit of tool that we have in this country. That’s the only way this country can have a sustainable future,” he declared.
“We have to fight racism. We’ve equipped the Police with the tools. They have the Racial Hostility Act; they have a whole range of tools at their disposal. They have to move swiftly, and not be intimidated, and have to prove that they’re acting impartially or partially,” Jagdeo posited.
He went on to say that some politicians deliberately accuse the Police of being partisan, so that the Force becomes cautious and would tiptoe around taking condign action against them. This way, he noted, these individuals are allowed to perpetuate their illegalities.
Excite racial hostility
Last December, Mayor Narine and Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Sherod Duncan were each placed on $200,000 bail by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan for allegedly attempting to excite racial hostility.
The charges stemmed from certain remarks the Mayor had made on Monday, December 12, 2022 while protesting the removal of vendors from the positions they occupied in front of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) at New Market Street in Georgetown.
Backed by the vendors, Mayor Narine lay on the roadway to prevent trucks from carrying away the vendors’ food caravans and stalls. Mayor Narine descended into making a series of serious accusations against President Dr Irfaan Ali, including that the Head of State is creating an Islamic State in Guyana.
Duncan had also conducted himself in a similar manner.
Narine had gone to the area after the Public Works Ministry had initiated action to remove vendors occupying spaces along New Market Street, between Thomas and East Streets, as of Monday, following notices that they were impeding the flow of traffic in the vicinity.
Remarks uttered by Georgetown Mayor Narine, accusing the President of creating an Islamic State, were on Tuesday vehemently condemned by Government, the Private Sector and Civil Society, among others. His comments were met with immediate backlash and calls for his immediate resignation on the ground that he was unfit to hold such office.
Narine, who is a pandit, was rebuked for his statement by the Guyana Pandits Council and its affiliates, which vehemently condemned the utterances he had made. (G1)