The law will take its course – Benn says of WPA’s ‘seditious’ statements
Lawyers are currently reviewing the statements made by two members of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) who are accused of inciting racial hostility and the Home Affairs Minister, Robeson Benn says the “law will take its course” as he joined a plethora of politicians, civil society and other organisations in condemning the statements made.
Two executive members of the WPA – Tacuma Ogunseye and Rhonda Layne – on March 9, addressed a public meeting at Buxton, East Coast Demerara, where Ogunseye called on the Afro-members of the Disciplined Services to ‘turn their guns’ on the government and Layne referred to East Indians in Guyana as those who came from the “slums” in India.
Their statements were made in the presence of the Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton, who did not denounce or condemn them.
Addressing the issue from a security standpoint, the Home Affairs Minister on Thursday said these statements are harmful to the country and can cause distress.
“I am saying while we are having legal reviews of them [the statements], they appear to be frankly seditious and if they are found to be seditious, the laws will take its course,” Benn told reporters at the sidelines of an event.
He said there are other safe alternatives for people who are aggrieved over the governance of the country.
“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 perceptions in relation to governance, and what is the make-up of things, how things [work], there is representation in the Parliament and there is also the courts, the legal system. And 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.”
The Home Affairs Minister recalled the traumatic March 2020 general and regional elections when the APNU+AFC reportedly attempted to rig the results with the support of some members of the Disciplined Services.
“We had after the elections, a situation, where some persons who were in uniform, did things which were not lawful, democratic, or responsible in relation to our country, we’ve largely gone past that issue and we don’t want to go back to it,” Benn emphasised.
A number of senior members of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R) – the largest party in the APNU – have since distanced themselves from the WPA’s statements.
The issue also engaged the attention of President Dr Irfaan Ali, who in an address to the nation on March 11, sought to rally collective condemnation of the Opposition.
The country’s Attorney General has already called for a full investigation into Ogunseye’s statement, noting that it amounts 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.