WPA’s racist comments: “We have to fight racism; Police have to act swiftly” – Jagdeo

General Secretary of the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Bharrat Jagdeo has underscored the need for Guyanese to fight racism and has called on the Guyana Police Force to go after those who continue to spew racial hate and inciting remarks.
Jagdeo’s statement comes on the heels of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) coming under fire over racist, divisive and inciting remarks made by its senior members, including Executive Tacuma Ogunseye, during a public meeting held on March 9 at Buxton, East Coast Demerara.
During a press conference on Thursday at his party’s Freedom House headquarters, Jagdeo, who is also the Vice President of the current PPP/C Government, called the WPA remarks dangerous and reflective of the racist mentality of the party and its members to score political points.
“They go out and make outrageous comments and hope that the outrageous comments will trigger a public outcry. And they get their names mentioned and the WPA certainly comes alive back on paper. That is their modus operandi and they triggered it again… a dead organisation trying to resurrect itself once again by making these wild statements,” he posited.
However, the PPP General Secretary contended that this is a law-and-order issue since the remarks made were inciting. To this end, the Vice President called on the Police to take action against the perpetrators.
“Now these are pure law and order issues. It doesn’t require just public condemnation, and there has been adequate public condemnation from people and organisations that have integrity, but the Police have to deal with this… These are illegal acts and the Police need to nip them in the bud immediately because they do this for the outrageous value – that’s a benefit to them.”
“But when they’re faced with [breaking] the law of the country… the Police have to be sent as quickly as possible, file the cases and charge these individuals because if other people do it, the Police will go after them… This is a law and order issue and it requires immediate action. And you’ll see how quickly many of them will retreat,” the GS noted.
Already, Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn disclosed last week that there is a “legal review” of the statements made and if they are found to be seditious, he contended that “the law will take its course”.
Describing the remarks as “open calls” for “misadventure and distress”, Minister Benn argued that “we cannot have persons who would want to call out in a democratic environment, where there is a Parliament, where there are courts…there are resorts in the Parliament, and there are resorts in the legal system.
“If any person or any organisation feels aggrieved, rationally, with their perception in relation to governance…there is representation in Parliament, and there (are) also the courts, the legal system. We should not allow persons to vicariously, in a crowded hall of people, shout ‘Fire!’ or call one set of people to attack another set of people, or to suggest that persons who have arms in a formal Disciplined Services area to turn those perhaps against the State or against (their) fellow Guyanese,” the Home Affairs Minister stressed.
However, despite the mounting criticisms over his remarks, Ogunseye is being backed by his party – the WPA, which has defended him.
He is also receiving support from the A Partnership for National Unity Opposition with the PNC-led APNU Leader, Aubrey Norton saying Ogunseye’s right to “free speech must be respected”. The Opposition Leader, who was also one of the speakers at the public meeting, further described the utterances from the WPA camp as just “poor choice of words”.
But according to VP Jagdeo, this age-old issue of racism needs to be tackled in a frontal manner in order to bring an end to race-baiting being used a political tool.
However, even as he sounded calls for the Guyana Police Force to take action on the matter, the Vice President pointed out that the Police often get intimidated in cases that involve political players. But 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. We have to fight racism. We’ve equipped the Police with the tool. 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 note 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. (G8)