Since when did calling on people not to retaliate become incitement to violence?

Dear Editor,

It has just been brought to my attention that the police Public Relations Officer, Mr Ivelaw Whittaker, has written to the Stabroek News which carried a statement I issued in the wake of the killing of Mr Courtney Crum-Ewing, in the form of an edited letter (March 12). The letter from Mr Whittaker (SN, March 14) relates to a conversation I had with Guyana’s Crime Chief, Mr Leslie James.

On Thursday, May 12 at approximately 11.39 Arizona time, I received a call from someone who identified himself as Mr Leslie James and asked to speak to me about reports in the media regarding a statement I made about the death of Mr Courtney Crum-Ewing. The conversation lasted 3 minutes and 58 seconds. The officer asked if I had any evidence of who may have murdered Mr Courtney Crum-Ewing. I responded that I had no such evidence; that all I know of the crime is what has been reported in the media.

He then asked what I meant by “No tit for tat” in my statement to the media. I explained that my statement was aimed purely at the political implications of the killing; that in our ethnically charged environment whereby a political person of one ethnic group is killed, there is always the risk that persons may want to respond violently. I further told him that as someone who is politically active and who has been speaking out about violence against African Guyanese, I felt it was my duty to call on the community to desist from any violent reaction as it is my strong view that such a development would be counterproductive.

At no time did Mr James tell me that my behaviour has the potential for inciting violence or warned me to desist from “such behaviour.” I ended the brief exchange by commending Mr James and the police force for what I thought was a genuine attempt to leave no stone unturned in their quest to solve the crime. I viewed the decision to call me as procedural and welcomed it. I subsequently called Mr Christopher Ram, Attorney-at-Law and told him of the conversation.

I am stunned by this official police response to my statement, which clearly set out to do the opposite of what the police seem to be accusing me of. Since when calling on people not to retaliate is incitement to violence? Mr Crum-Ewing was killed doing political work. He was a known political activist with sentiments against a known political party. His murder, therefore, has to be discussed within a political context until the police and justice system can prove otherwise beyond a shadow of a doubt.

In the meantime, I reiterate my call to opposition supporters, to stay clear of any violent response. In the end such responses do not benefit the cause of justice. And I call on the police authorities to do everything in their power to find the killers and identify any possible intellectual authors. They can be rest assured that I, David Hinds, do not fall in either category.

Yours faithfully,

David Hinds

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