T&T police probe display of racist placards at march against govt

CrimeSceneHPORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, (CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago police have launched an investigation into the presence of placards bearing racist slogans during a demonstration organised by the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) last weekend.

Acting Superintendent Joanne Archie said that a senior officer had been appointed as the lead investigator into the matter.

Last week, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, who led supporters of his People’s National Movement (PNM) in the protest march against the government, said that people dressed in red, the colour of the PNM and “carrying placards with racist statements have been planted throughout the march.

“We reject out of hand this underhanded attempt to change the conversation surrounding the march and we distance ourselves from the divisive statements, born out of the deceptive and dirty tactics of those who wish to continue to rape our treasury and continue their wrong-doing, against the will of the people,” he said.

At a news conference on Tuesday Rowley called on the police to investigate the placard issue.

Photographs of people wearing red jerseys, holding placards bearing “racist” statements were posted on social-networking sites on Friday.

Acting Superintendent could not say whether the decision to launch the investigation was promote by Rowley’s statement, adding “I cannot say if it is as a result of the call by Rowley”.

She said the Acting Police Commissioner, Stephen Williams had confirmed that he had immediately launched an investigation into the matter and an investigator has been appointed.

Under the sedition Act, anyone found guilty of an offence could face up to 12 months in jail.

Meanwhile, the leader of government business in the Parliament, Dr Roodal Moonilal has sought to distance the ruling United National Congress (UNC) from any involvement in the matter, saying instead that the PNM has had a history of using such strategies.

“This reminded me of a particular individual, when I was at the UWI (University of the West Indies) St Augustine, what he would do; he would pelt a stone high in the air, on the house, and then he will run into the house and when the stone hit the roof, he would say who did that?

“Now, this is Dr Rowley trying to avoid the reality that his party over the years, not today alone, but his party has promoted division and discriminatory treatment,” Moonila, who is also a senior government minister, told reporters.

He questioned why the organisers of the march did not take steps “on the day to remove those persons and those placards from the legitimate march which they conducted.

“They are first liable for the people who were in their march…they should have dealt with that; the matter is not for the Police Commissioner now, it is for the organisers of the march,” said Moonilal, adding that the UNC did not put plants in the march to hold racist placards.

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