Portugal: Prime minister asks if skin colour shaped questions - InfoNews

Current Conditions


Portugal: Prime minister asks if skin colour shaped questions

In this photo taken Jan. 17, 2019, Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa walks to the door of the Sao Bento palace in Lisbon. On Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, the speaker of Portugal's parliament has appealed for calm during a session debating racial tensions and police conduct after the prime minister asked whether his own skin color had prompted a lawmaker's questions. Costa, whose father's family is from India, said to the lawmaker, "It must be because of my skin color that you're asking me whether I condemn or don't condemn" police violence. The comment caused an uproar. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)
January 25, 2019 - 9:17 AM

LISBON, Portugal - Portugal's prime minister caused uproar in parliament when he asked if the colour of his skin had prompted a lawmaker's questions during a debate on racial tensions and police conduct Friday.

"It must be because of my skin colour that you're asking me whether I condemn or don't condemn" police violence, Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who is of Indian descent on his father's side, told the inquiring legislator.

Members of the Republican Assembly, Portugal's parliament, shouted, threw up their arms in astonishment and banged on their tables at Costa's comment. The chamber's speaker urged restraint and appealed for calm.

The parliamentary debate took place amid tensions between police and some black residents of Portuguese communities who have accused officers of racist behaviour, including in their use of force.

Costa, a 57-year-old centre-left Socialist who has governed since 2015, was reacting to centre-right lawmaker Assuncao Cristas, who is white. She asked Costa whether he supported the police as they fought acts of vandalism which some have linked to the racial tension.

Costa's race has never been a political issue. Portugal, like other European former colonial powers, is home to large numbers of Africans and their locally-born descendants.

Authorities are investigating accusations that police officers needlessly and excessively beat a group of black people when they went to break up a fight in a low-income neighbourhood in Seixal, a town 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Lisbon, last weekend. Police said officers were physically attacked when they responded to the fight.

An anti-racism group joined dozens of local people for a peaceful protest in Seixal on Friday.

Many immigrants and their descendants from Portugal's five former African colonies live in poor suburban areas in the Lisbon region.

In the past week, trash cans were set on fire, and cars and a bus were torched in troubled neighbourhoods with high rates of delinquency. Police haven't tied the incidents to the complaints of police racism, saying the damage could be routine acts of vandalism.

No damage was reported Thursday night.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

  • Popular kelowna News
  • Comments
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile