The government should have been more pro-active during the protests
Stabroek News
September 26, 2001

Dear Editor,

I find it most interesting that the government-controlled Guyana Chronicle while refusing to publish my letter, saw fit however, to publish a swift rebuttal by Mr Balram Chaitlall (`History will vindicate President,' Chronicle, 2l.9.2001) [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ]. My argument in the letter published by the more even-handed Stabroek News (see `The PPP/C has to take responsibility for the state of the country,' (l9.9.0l) [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] was that inasmuch as defenders of the PPP/C are

putting all the blame for the economic woes of the country on the destabilizing antics of the PNC, the government must shoulder the ultimate responsibility for conditions, economic or otherwise, under its watch.

Mr Chaitlall asked in his letter what alternatives were open to the PPP during the post-election period? I would have thought that the ruling party, with about nine years of governmental experience under its belt, would by now be au fait with some riot protection measures. During that terrible time there should have been, at a minimum, a larger presence of all branches of the security forces and a more pro-active reigning-in of those `talk show hosts' who were spewing a continuous stream of unadulterated seditious venom during that sensitive period.

But even if the PPP were unsure of how to get a grip on the situation, they could have availed themselves of the myriad suggestions in the print media. For example, the Stabroek News editorial of March 26, 2001 captioned `The mob must not be allowed to prevail' had recommended that, "To reassure the citizenry, there should be a greater police presence on the streets of the capital and places in turmoil." Stabroek News, on l3.4.0l reported that the UF leader Manzoor Nadir - now a PPP/C minister - warned that "a race war would be the result if the government does not take steps to protect Indian Guyanese... the Indian community is suffering the brunt of the African hatred. They need protection and if it means two soldiers on each street corner let it be done... it was high time errant talk show hosts and the television station owners were prosecuted under the criminal laws of sedition." Why were our soldiers not brought in from the inception of the riots? From past experience we know what to expect.

The same article continued that the "Leader of ROAR Ravi Dev, echoing fears of a race war, said "things are drifting" and that in rural areas both PPP/C and PNC/R supporters were being mobilised with Indian vigilante groups patrolling villages on the West Coast. "They [the government] have to bring out the troops." But he added, "I do not think they trust the troops. That is why they have not brought them out."

In the light of this lack of trust, and noting that the protection of innocent people was a paramount duty of elected officials, Mr Dev had urged calling in UN troops. Mr Dev also suggested that "the talk show hosts [who] have been conducting incitement to the highest level" should be prosecuted for sedition. In his letter, Mr Chaitlall said (of the post election violence) that it was a political problem, which was solved by political means: dialogue. Yes, dialogue is always recommended and necessary, but what Mr Chaitlall failed to mention was that the `solution,' the dialogue, took place long after the now infamous `slow fiah' and `mo fiah' campaigns had run their pernicious course.

The PPP was extremely naive to feel that the sum total of their anti-violence strategy should be a mere invitation to dialogue with Mr Hoyte, and nothing else. An unequivocal condemnation of acts of discrimination and violence is not enough to quell inter-ethnic strife. In addition to the above-recommended measures, full legal remedies should have been brought to bear in all cases of the anti-Indian violence. In all instances of post-election violence, perpetrators have never been actively pursued and brought to justice. The lack of political will to do so only signal other potential 'protesters' to believe that, in the future, they can engage in similar acts with virtual impunity. At the very least, some of the high-profile incidents should be brought to a just conclusion, both as a demonstration of the legitimacy of the government and as a way of bringing some moral relief to the Indian community. In the numerous cases of anti-Indian violence we have seen over the years, how many perpetrators are now in custody?

Mr Chaitlall complained that I only know how to cast blame. But if people under attack are witnessing massive doses of passivity by the officials elected to protect them, should we not revisit the issue, study what happened, question and highlight the inaction so as to prevent recurrences?

Yours faithfully,

Dhanpaul Mangru