…ERC launches probe; Minister Norton says comments damaging to social cohesion

FAMOUSLY known for his song ‘Dem a watch meh’, Chutney artiste Mahendra Ramkellawan is now under fire after a video of him spewing political venom caught the attention of many including the Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr. George Norton, and the Ethnic Relations Commission.

Ramkellawan was seen in a video calling for acts of violence to be committed against the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) + Alliance For Change (AFC) executive members Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo and Vice President, Khemraj Ramjattan.

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Adding gasoline to an already lit fire, Ramkellawan said, “Anywhere you see Ramjattan or Nagamootoo spit in their face or throw a bucket of water or anything you have in your hand…nothing do with acid, but anywhere you see them sit down drinking rum or meeting, spit in their face.

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In the distasteful video, Ramkellawan also volunteered to pay the stipulated $15,000 fine that is attached to the criminal act of intentionally spitting on another person (assault).

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In response to his rhetoric Minister Norton stated that such messages of hate and violence are damaging to social cohesion and Guyana’s music industry.
“As an artiste, Mr. Ramkellawan has an important role to play in nation building, so for him to be using his platform to incite violence is undoubtedly despicable,” Dr. Norton said.

The minister added that, at a time when the atmosphere is tense, artiste should be using their platforms to promote love and unity.
“Mr. Ramkellawan should be promoting harmony and using his popularity to inspire our young people. Of course, it is okay to have strong political views, but regardless of his political persuasion, inciting violence is reckless and uncalled for,” Dr. Norton added.

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Minister Norton who also holds responsibility for Culture, Youth and Sport stated that Chutney music is a particular genre of music that brings the Guyanese people together in celebration, as such Ramkellawan has a responsibility to use his platform for the greater good.

“Chutney artistes therefore have a responsibility to use their platform to do just that, not segregate people and provoke violence and crime,” Minister Norton said.
Dr. Norton added that it is okay for persons to have varying political views, however it not okay for persons to incite division and violence, “It is okay to have political disagreements. What is not okay is allowing our political disagreements to eat away at our humanity. We can do better; we must do better.”

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When contacted, Lloyd Smith of Ethnic Relations Commission’s Investigative Unit, disclosed that an investigation has been launched into Ramkellawan post.
However, he stated that the commission has been faced with several challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to tracking and finding persons who have committed offences.

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