ACTING Police Commissioner Stephen Williams must launch an investigation into the issue of people bearing placards with racist slogans as it is a breach of the Sedition Act and threatens this country’s social stability, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday.
Rowley said the police must not only prosecute those who held the placards but also those who planned the strategy.
He said the “heinous act” was orchestrated by the United National Congress (UNC) as an attempt to distract from its poor performance as a government and also to garner support for the general election due next year.
Rowley made the statements as he held a news conference yesterday at the Office of the Opposition Leader, Charles Street, Port of Spain.
On Friday, the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) held a mass demonstration through the streets of Port of Spain entitled “It’s time to take a stand for Trinidad and Tobago”.
The Opposition People’s National Movement (PNM) led by Rowley participated in the march.
Photographs of people wearing red jerseys holding placards bearing “racist” statements were posted on social networking sites on Friday.
The demonstrators were said to have been a part of the JTUM demonstration.
Rowley yesterday distanced the PNM and the JTUM demonstration from the racist statements.
“It has come to our attention in the PNM that the UNC has put together a campaign plan, a campaign team and a campaign strategy ... the main components of the campaign team, it is made up of some government ministers, a few chairmen of State boards, a few public officials in ministries and a few newspaper columnists, that is the team that is organising the UNC’s strategy,” he said.
“The strategy is to attack the PNM and to attack me personally. To paint me in the most negative light and the most negative of the negatives is to paint me as a racist. That is the strategy of the UNC going into the next general election,” Rowley said.
Rowley yesterday analysed the photographs of the men bearing placards and showed they were in fact located at the front of the Parliament building, Tower D of the International Waterfront Centre in Port of Spain and not part of the JTUM march.
Rowley said this is the second time for the year such tactics were being utilised by the UNC.
“This is the second time that in the context of political expressions in the country that persons have come out and broken the law and we have no evidence that the police has taken action against them,” Rowley said.
“We have heard nothing from the police about their actions on this matter. It was allowed to go on much to the horror of persons who were present and it signalled an intention by government supporters and their agents to conduct election in Trinidad and Tobago in a dangerous way,” he said.
“We condemned it at the time and this time they have gone one step further. They brought their agents to town, prepared their racist placards, brought them on the site, photographed them, and then published it as though it was in the JTUM march,” he said.
Rowley said orchestrating the act was bad but the UNC went even further by trying to palm it off as a PNM plot.
“The UNC has done a most heinous act and seeking to pass their own act onto others only compounds the disgusting behaviour,” Rowley said.
“This act as done by the UNC last Friday is an act that should warrant the attention and must warrant the attention of the police,” he said.
Rowley said police investigators can retrieve video footage from the Parliament to aid in their solving of this crime.
“If you make placards like this and you advocate this kind of thing, you are in fact breaking the law. If they did not know and they allowed themselves to be operated in that way by UNC operatives well they will now and must now face the full brunt of the law,” Rowley said.
Rowley said if the police fail to act in this situation then it will reveal itself as being “incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial”.
“If the police does not act in this situation where you know who did it, where you know where it is done, it is on camera in the Parliament, if the police does not act to properly prosecute these individuals then we can all accept once and for all that the Police Service in Trinidad and Tobago is not only incompetent, it is irrelevant and immaterial to our well being. I trust that that is not the conclusion that we will come to,” Rowley said.
“If this kind of crime cannot be solved well what chance do we have of solving the other ones where we don’t know who committed the crime and we rely on investigations and other techniques,” he said.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar walked away from reporters yesterday before she could be asked to respond to Rowley’s claims and there was no response from Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal when the Express tried to contact him on the matter.