Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2023, 7:14 by Denis Chabrol
Several elected officials from the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR)-dominated A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) on Saturday said they did not endorse offensive remarks about Indo-Guyanese at a Working People’s Alliance (WPA) public meeting.
And a former PNCR General Secretary, Geeta Chandan-Edmond distanced herself from statements by WPA Executive Member Tacuma Ogunseye that Afro-Guyanese should expect support from the police and defence forces if there is a mass unrest against the People’s Progressive Party Civic-led administration.
“Some of the speakers communicated sentiments which must be strongly condemned since they can lead to public disorder and anarchy in an already ethnically-inflamed environment . As Guyanese, we must move swiftly to initiate mature dialogue aimed at promoting harmony, tolerance and trust,” she said of the remarks at the meeting.
PNCR and Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton did not dissociate himself from Mr Ogunseye’s remarks, but disagreed that a Day of Resistance should include a total boycott of the June 12, 2023 Local Government Elections as there was need to preserve its strongholds.
Ms Chandan-Edmond, who is an APNU+Alliance For Change parliamentarian, said there was no place for such comments and they needed to find a way to forge concrete national unity. “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,” she said.
Also, opposition parliamentarians Ganesh Mahipaul and Natasha Singh-Lewis as well as Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) Chairman Daniel Seeram and City Mayor Ubraj Narine criticised an unnamed speaker on the WPA platform for making unsavoury statements about Indo-Guyanese. “Specifically, we wish to condemn the speaker’s remarks where it referred to East Indians coming from the slums of India and living in deplorable places like pipes. These remarks further insinuated that the alleged conditions under which East Indians lived in India made them undeserving of lands in Guyana,” said the four elected officials who are PNCR members who are Indo-Guyanese.
The trio did not name her, but she has been identified as Rhonda Layne who highlighted the freed slaves’ sacrifice to purchase lands and assign them for various purposes. “You had all the things because you know Black people know about it so they streamlined their villages so now that these people come and trying to brag over ancestral lands, we must put our foot down on it,” she added.
While they condemn and distance themselves from any racial attack on any race in Guyana, including Afro-Guyanese, they believed that the speaker might have made the comments out of hurt for what is happening in several Afro-Guyanese communities, they could not allow such conduct to pass without being called out.
They observed that neither of the other speakers dissociated themselves from the statements made by that speaker. “It is disappointing that none of the other speakers at the meeting sought to address or clarify that speaker’s statements. We call on all political leaders and representatives to speak out against all forms of bigotry and discrimination and to work towards a more inclusive and tolerant society,” Mr Mahipaul, Ms Singh-Lewis, Mr Narine and Mr Seeram said. The other speakers included WPA Executive Members Tacuma Ogunseye, David Hinds, Deon Abrams and PNCR Leader Aubrey Norton.
Mr Mahipaul, Ms Singh-Lewis, Mr Narine and Mr Seeram were, however, silent on Mr Ogunseye’s expectation of support from the security forces for the removal of the PPP from power in a mass protest.
At a public meeting in Bent Street, Wortmanville, Georgetown, Mr Norton did not refer to the WPA-triggered controversy.
They said the policies of the governing People’s Progressive Party have been crafted and intended to create different and inequitable Guyanas. “The execution of such policies incite and inflame racial tensions.”
The Guyana government has often dismissed criticisms by the opposition and a number of United States Congressmen that there concerns about inclusivity and shared prosperity need to be addressed.
Private Sector blasts WPA
Meanwhile, the umbrella Private Sector Commission (PSC) condemned the WPA for stoking a Joint Services-backed mass uprising to oust the PPP administration from office based on Afro-Guyanese loyalty by police and soldiers.
The PSC noted that Opposition Leader Norton was present when “an undisguised, deliberate and ugly attempt to promote insurrection against the elected Government of the day” on March 9 at a WPA meeting at Buxton. “The WPA statement is yet another attempt to pursue and advocate racial confrontation and conflict, an abject and wholly unacceptable pursuit of political racism intending to divide the
people of our country,” the business organisation said.
The PSC said the statement by the WPA, a former member of the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), is utterly irresponsible and completely reckless and must be rejected out of hand by every citizen of our country.
The Private Sector Commission, which is perceived in some quarters as enjoying a cozy relationship with the PPPC-led administration, said “fully and unreservedly supports” Attorney General, Anil Nandlall and President Irfaan Ali in “condemning this attempt to create political
mayhem and economic instability in our country.” The PSC called upon the leadership of every political party in Guyana to condemn and reject that kind of political behaviour aimed at threatening the peace and security of Guyana and to speak out with one voice against it.
The WPA on Saturday said it stood in solidarity with Mr Ogunseye and that the party refused to retract any of his comments. The President and the Attorney General have listed several possible offences that Mr Ogunseye might be culpable of. Those include exciting racial hostility, fomenting public disorder, terrorism against the state, sedition, seditious libel and possibly treason.