As there continues to be widespread condemnation against the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) over the racist and divisive remarks made at its recent public meeting, calls are now being made for perpetrators of hate speech to be held accountable.
This is according to Government Member of Parliament, Attorney-at-Law Sanjeev Datadin, who joined Government officials, private sector representatives, and other sections of society in condemning the statements made by WPA Executive Member, Tacuma Ogunseye.
During the WPA meeting held in Buxton, East Coast Demerara on March 9, Ogunseye had made incendiary remarks, which according to Datadin, sought to promote hate.
The MP described Ogunseye’s remarks as bitter, divisive, racist and determined to hinder the country’s progress. Ogunseye also reiterated the unproven claim by Opposition members that Afro-Guyanese are being oppressed under the current Administration.
Further, Ogunseye appeared to encourage the use of violence to advance a political agenda, insinuating that members of the Joint Forces should “turn those guns in the right direction”.
Recognising the liberties afforded concerning free speech, MP Datadin, who is also a renowned Guyanese lawyer, emphasised that there is no protection under the Constitution for the promotion of hatred and racism.
“It is disturbing that people take such liberties and say such things in public settings in Guyana. They are Guyanese and they are entitled to their views, but they are not entitled to divide us. They are not entitled to tell us how we should treat our fellow Guyanese, and they are not entitled to tell us that we should stand for violence against our fellow Guyanese. Civilised societies don’t work that way,” he said.
MP Datadin added that any attempt to create a racial divide that conflicts with the country’s trajectory in building a “One Guyana” should be condemned by all.
To this end, Datadin called on Guyanese to point out the perpetrators and not turn a blind eye to such divisive speech.
“Anybody who has a modicum of intellect or even common sense would know that every conversation about racial and ethnic division started by madmen, ended in tragedy. There is no place for such behaviour here. We should not tolerate it. If we are going to be successful as a country, we have to resist this hate speech.
“We must call it out! We must charge the perpetrators, and prosecute them. It takes us as a people to stand up and say we would not tolerate that. And that is what we have to do,” the attorney stressed.
Datadin said such language has no place in a democratic society.
Only Thursday, Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn disclosed 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,” Minister Benn stressed.
Despite the mounting criticism over his remarks, Ogunseye is being backed by his party – the WPA, which has defended him.
Moreover, he is also receiving support from the APNU Opposition with APNU/PNCR Leader Aubrey Norton saying Ogunseye’s right to “free speech must be respected”. The Opposition Leader further described the utterances from the WPA camp as just “poor choice of words”. [Extracted and modified from DPI]