AFC Chair skirts question on WPA’s ‘racist’ comment
Chairperson of the Alliance For Change, Cathy Hughes
Chairperson of the Alliance For Change, Cathy Hughes

-says party open to ‘structured, serious discussions’

CHAIRPERSON of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Cathy Hughes, on Friday avoided answering a question about the party’s reaction to the public’s condemnation of the racially inflammatory remarks recently made by executive members of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA).

Hughes, during the party’s weekly press conference, instead chose to insinuate that the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) never gave the AFC a voice in such cases.

She claimed that there have been many instances where persons of “high standing” and others have made derogatory statements in the past and the party was never asked to comment.

“Never were we asked to comment on the infamous ‘dildo’ comment, which was thrown at women in the most derogatory way in the parliament. And therefore, I find it strange and in a kind of a way unacceptable that we are all being pulled into this, this useless approach of picking and choosing who makes a particular statement and who we’re going to comment on and who we will just let slide,” Hughes said.

Hughes at no time in her response made direct reference to any of the controversial statements that were made by WPA officials.

WPA’s executive member, Tacuma Ogunseye, during a gathering at Buxton on the East Coast of Demerara, said: “I don’t understand how people complain that they are oppressed, and they are holding guns in their hands. They are the majority in the army, in the police, and they say they are oppressed. And they still say our problem is our own making. Anytime we turn those guns in the right direction it is over.”

He also made incendiary remarks about Guyana’s Indo-Guyanese. Since the utterance of those statements, numerous persons have called out and condemned the remarks as racist and inciting. Ogunseye had also called for the Disciplined Services “to turn their guns on the State.”

Against this backdrop, Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn recently said that legal reviews are ongoing and the law will take its course in relation to the comments made by the WPA executives.

Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C., had said that Ogunseye’s call for public disorder and resistance, is capable of amounting to several criminal offences, including but not limited to, sedition, seditious libel, inciting riotous behaviour and exciting racial hostility in order to create a breakdown of law and order within the State of Guyana, if not treason.

However, Hughes is of the view that the cybercrime legislation is not being used as it should.

“I have not seen the range of regular persons on social media that make these comments coming to our courts being charged under the Racial Hostility Act, being charged for incitement or anything, and therefore, we can’t help but feel that this is a very subjective approach to a very important issue,” she added.

In continuing, she said: “The other thing is that we are being asked to comment, when in fact, the current structure is not interested in anything that the AFC has to say really. And when I say the current structure, [I am] not talking about the media, but definitely the government that has the wherewithal to implement programmes to change the challenges that we have now.”

The chairperson said that the question is, “Why should the AFC play this nonsensical, irresponsible stupid game where they only respond to certain people at certain times?”

“So, my fundamental answer to your question is all that I have said, and I want to reiterate that when we’re ready as a government, as a country, and when this government is ready to have a serious discussion on race, and the high perceptions a large section of the population has, that there exist racial inequalities in the day to day, dispensation and life in Guyana, when the government is ready to have a structured, serious discussion on all these issues, I personally and the AFC will be more than happy to participate in any serious discussion. That will be my answer and that’s the best answer,” she said.

Thus far, several opposition members have publicly condemned the racially inflammatory remarks made by the WPA.

Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton, is yet to distance himself from those problematic remarks and has instead said that he supports the freedom of speech of the WPA.

Instead of publicly condemning Ogunseye’s incendiary remarks, the Leader of the Opposition (LOO) would only say that he did not agree with Ogunseye’s choice of words.

The Private Sector Commission (PSC), Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Region Three Private Sector Inc., and other groups from the business community have all issued statements condemning the remarks.

From the religious community, the Guyana Pandit’s Council, Guyana Central Arya Samaj, Guyana Inter Religious Organisation (IRO), and the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana have also expressed condemnation.


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