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Rowley to acting commissioner: Police must act on racist placards

Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley uses a photo illustration to deny his party’s involvement in last Friday’s display of racially provocative placards during a press conference at the Office of the Opposition Leader on Charles Street, Port of Spain, yesterday. PHOTO: MICHEAL BRUCE

Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley has given acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams 12 months to investigate claims that United National Congress (UNC) supporters were guilty of sedition by inciting racism during last Friday’s march organised by the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM). Rowley was speaking at a press conference at the Opposition’s office at Charles Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.



He charged that this was a well-orchestrated move by a “group made up of government ministers, public officials on the government’s payroll in various ministries, a couple of columnists from newspapers and a couple of state boards.” Rowley said in due course those behind the plan would be publicly named. A group of people dressed in red carried placards which described an “Indian prime minister” and called for an “African” prime minister to be elected in the person of Rowley.


The Opposition leader said those responsible were strategically placed outside the Parliament and mingled with UNC supporters, and were not associated with the march. Saying they violated the Sedition Act, Rowley also demanded that those who were guilty should be charged. “I am calling on the commissioner of police, if he has not already done so, to go under the relevant section of this act, get from the Parliament the relevant footage from the cameras, see who the persons were, identify them and prosecute them.


“A crime has been committed and encouraged by the Government and the police must act,” Rowley said. He said if the police failed to act then society could accept “once and for all that the Police Service is not only incompetent but irrelevant and immaterial” to the well-being of citizens. 



The People’s National Movement (PNM), Rowley added, participated in the march to support JTUM. The march, which left Woodford Square, Port-of-Spain, after 2 pm followed the route approved by the police. It ended at the Brian Lara Promenade where a public meeting was held. “The march was accompanied by cohorts of police officers of all stations. Nowhere in the report of the press and the police was there any report of breaches of any law, particularly of the Sedition Act,” Rowley stressed. 


“At the end of the march UNC activists posted photographs (of people) purporting to be in the JTUM march carrying offensive placards with serious racial connotations.” He then showed a series of photographs showing a group of people dressed in red assembled outside the Parliament carrying placards. “It is offensive in the extreme for any person to seek to advance him or herself or their political fortunes on reaching out...hoping that if they poison others with a racial brush, that they would benefit politically,” Rowley added.


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