WPA hints at Ogunseye surrendering to police; warns “political prisoner” status has consequences

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 March 2023, 17:23 by Denis Chabrol

The headquarters of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA).

The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) on Thursday stopped short of saying outright that its executive member Tacuma Ogunseye would surrender to police who want him in connection with several offences including exciting racial hostility earlier this month.

“He is not going to go into hiding and he is not going to roll over and die… He is ready to go down the road. Oh no! He is not going to roll over and die and he is not going to hide from the police or anybody,” WPA Executive Member Dr David Hinds told a news conference.

He said the media would be informed at short notice in the coming hours about the next step after Mr Ogunseye, the party and their lawyers finalise discussions.

Police have cited Mr Ogunseye for “several serious offences” and attempting to excite racial hostility or ill-will in violation of Guyana’s Racial Hostility Act on March 9, 2023 during a public meeting at Buxton, East Coast Demerara.

Dr Hinds said police made no effort to contact Mr Ogunseye, 71, who earlier Thursday chaired their party’s executive meeting.

The WPA said after Mr Ogunseye, a veteran Guyanese grassroots politician and city market vendor, is taken into police custody, he would be treated as a political prisoner and that Guyana could brace itself for the fallout from such a status. “We intend, once Brother Ogunseye is in the custody of the police, to treat him as a political prisoner and we will engage in all that comes when a government takes a political prisoner,” Dr Hinds said.

Tacuma Ogunseye

Dr Hinds accused the PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo and Attorney General Anil Nandlall of publicly influencing police action against Mr Ogunseye. “We intend to make the charges against against Ogunseye a test of whether this government is a democratic government committed to all the tenets of democracy or is it a government that is prepared to govern by fear by muzzling those who come out in the open space and speak and trying to bully the opposition,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Jagdeo on Thursday accused the People’s National Congress Reform of pushing a racist agenda through WPA, a “defunct party that is trying to resurrect itself by polarising the country” and, if successful, would benefit politically. “The PNC doesn’t want to openly push then racism line because they are under international scrutiny now….APNU (A Partnership for National Unity) cannot carry the racist rhetoric because, having gone abroad and argued, so they are using these front organisations- the WPA and this one- to carry the racist rhetoric and then they will roll in to reap the political rewards,” he said.

PNCR and Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton on Thursday said photographic evidence shows that “the billion dollars in  contracts” are going to one set of people. “I reaffirm the position that the People’s Progressive Party is a racist regime that is not giving African Guyanese and Indigenous people and other ethnic groups their fair share of the national pie,”  Mr Norton said.

Back in the 1970s, the PPP,  small parties and civic and religious organisations had waged an all out campaign against the charging of its  activist Arnold Rampersaud for the shooting murder of Police Constable James Henry. He was subsequently freed.