PM Phillips slams WPA’s appeal to racial sympathy in security forces; David Hinds notes Norton’s criticism

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 March 2023, 23:02 by Denis Chabrol

Then Prime Ministerial candidate for the People’s Progressive Party, Retired Brigadier Mark Phillips. (file picture) 

Even as the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) reacted to Opposition Leader Aubrey N0rton’s guarded view of its Executive Member Tacuma Ogunseye’s appeal to racial sympathy by the predominantly Afro-Guyanese security forces, Prime Minister Mark Phillips on Wednesday hinted that stern action would be taken against those who are bent on stirring racial tensions.

“Our democratically-elected government is committed to the rule of law in Guyana and the enhancement of the democratic process, which remains fundamental to good governance and a key pillar of the administration, and we will not stand idly by and allow anyone to fuel the flames of hatred, racism, and violence in our society,” Mr Phillips said almost three hours after WPA Executive Member David Hinds again dared government to lock up Mr Ogunseye or himself for the statements made at the public meeting in Buxton on March 8, 2023.  “If you want to jail Ogunseye or jail David Hinds and think that will solve the problem, you are in for a rude awakening,” he said.

The Prime Minister is the third senior government official to have signaled that Mr Ogunseye might be charged and prosecuted for exciting racial hostility, sedition, seditious libel, terrorism and fomenting violence. Dr Hinds on Wednesday night made it clear that he was not advocating violence while at the same time reiterating the call for the security forces not to shoot Black Guyanese.

“Hinds’ cynical and race-hate commentary on his programme “Politics 101″ is an affront to the collective effort of the government and the wider Guyanese society to promote racial harmony and to focus our people on the ever-expanding developmental path,” said Retired Brigadier Phillips, a former Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).

Dr Hinds on Wednesday delivered a stinging rebuke to People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) member Geeta Chandan-Edmond for criminalising Mr Ogunseye and justifying the governing party’s alleged attacks on the opposition and African Guyanese.

Reacting to Mr Norton’s reported disagreement with Mr Ogunseye and that he believed he went too far in his language, Dr Hinds said the WPA was not seeking support from other opposition parties but would condemn political leaders who seek to isolate WPA members into the clutches of the People’s Progressive Party Civic-led administration. “We do not want Brother Aubrey Norton or any opposition member, opposition party to endorse what we said. All we ask of them is not to join the PPP in criminalising us and we are satisfied in the Working People’s Alliance that Brother Aubrey Norton did not criminalise us. He is well within his right to disagree with the language from our platform. He is well within his right to determine whether Brother Ogunseye went too far… but other than we have no quarrel with Brother Aubrey Norton,” he said.

Dr Hinds again criticised Indo-Guyanese PNCR members Ganesh Mahipaul, Daniel Seeram, Natasha Singh-Lewis and Ubraj Narine for publicly criticising Rhonda Layne’s characterisation of Indian Indentured labourers, saying that “they go carried away”.

The Prime Minister chided political parties as well as the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), the International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly – Guyana (IDPADA-G), and the recently launched Institute for Action against Discrimination for their “deafening silence”, “I would like to take this opportunity to call on all political parties to come forward and strongly condemn this racially divisive commentary, which has the underpinnings of terrorism and hostility,” he said. “The lack of condemnation by “political leaders” of the racist and inciting remarks made by WPA member Tacuma Ogunseye at a public meeting held in Buxton on the East Coast of Demerara last week, is most disturbing,” Mr Phillips said in a statement.

The Prime Minister urged an end to the negativity and attempt to rile the Afro-Guyanese for self-serving reasons. “I condemn the racism and racist statements, as well as calls for terrorism and any intentional actions aimed at fostering violent behaviours in Guyana. We must prioritise Guyana’s development and improve the lives and livelihoods of all Guyanese,” he said.

Mr Phillips chided Mr Ogunseye and Dr Hinds for making inflammatory statements that are in contrast to the principles of the WPA under Walter Rodney.  At the height of a civil rebellion against the PNC-led Forbes Burnham administration,  Mr Rodney was assassinated on June 13, 1980 when a bomb-in-walkie-talkie exploded in his lap while seated in a car on John Street outside the Georgetown Prison. The device was provided by then Guyana Defence Force electronics expert Sergeant 4141 Gregory Smith who was whisked out of Guyana and given a Guyanese passport bearing the name Cyril Johnson.  A number of known WPA activists at that time had also been killed.