‘The law will take its course if WPA’s remarks found to be seditious’ – Benn

Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn

Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn has contended that the law will take its course if it is determined that the statements made by representatives of the Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) are found to be seditious.

Benn is the latest in a long list of civil society representatives, including Members of the Political Opposition, to have strongly condemned the attempts by the WPA to preach race hate and divisiveness.

“While we are having legal review of them (statements), they appear to be frankly seditious and if they are found to be seditious, the law will take its course,” the Home Affairs Minister told reporters today.

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 is 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 the fellow Guyanese,” Benn contended.

There has already been widespread condemnation of the statements made by WPA’s Tacuma Ogunseye and Rhonda Layne during a public meeting at Buxton, East Coast Demerara (ECD) on March 9.

President Dr Irfaan Ali as well as the Joint Services of Guyana and Attorney General Anil Nandlall have already made strong statements condemning the racist remarks.

Opposition Member of Parliament Geeta Chandon-Edmond issued a statement distancing herself from such utterances.

Moreover, she condemned the remarks made by the WPA member, noting that it can lead to public disorder in an already ethnically-inflamed environment.

She said: “I wish to publicly disassociate myself from the inflammatory statements and call for responsible actions and commentaries, from politicians, civil society and activists alike. There must be stronger national effort to build a unified nation.”

The remarks were also condemned by the Opposition’s Ganesh Mahipaul and Natasha Singh-Lewis, Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine and Region Four Chairman Daniel Seeram.

In their statements of condemnation, the Opposition members expressed disappointment that the comments by the WPA rep were not challenged by any subsequent speaker at the meeting. These subsequent speakers included Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton.

Moreover, the Private Sector Commission, which is led by Paul Cheong, issued a statement labelling the remarks as irresponsible and completely reckless. The PSC also called upon the leadership of every political party to condemn and reject this kind of political behaviour aimed at threatening the peace and security of the nation.

The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), headed by Timothy Tucker, in its statement of condemnation, made it clear that the body has absolutely no tolerance for any agent or agency desirous of inciting racial tensions, hostility or ill-will against any person of a specific gender, class or race.

The GCCI expressed that: “It is disheartening and appalling to see a fossilized way of thinking being resurrected and urgings in the direction of sowing havoc, disharmony and the destabilization of our democracy. There is no place for this type of behaviour in the landscape of Guyana.”

Meanwhile, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FITUG) has also denounced the remarks, noting that it is deeply disturbed and appalled by open and unvarnished race baiting by the WPA member.

FITUG reminded that: “given our country’s difficult past of tenuous race relations, the expressions by the leaders of the WPA demand our widest condemnation. They have no place and should be confined to the dust bin of history. To engage in such narratives, in our view, demonstrates how far the WPA has drifted from its multi-ethnic moorings…It also indicates that the political grouping has really nothing really to add to the national discourse and has chosen to descent to the pits in an effort to seek to remain relevant though, it really should be ostracised.”