An odious pamphlet Editorial
Stabroek News
April 22, 2002

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During last week's pre-funeral march for Shaka Blair organised by the PNC/R, a very dangerous and inflammatory pamphlet purported to be written by the five prison escapees or someone on their behalf was widely circulated among those in the procession.

The pamphlet sought to categorise this dangerous gang as "the five freedom fighters" whose mission was to remain here and "stand and fight for the African-Guyanese nation just as the sea bandits Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake and Sir Henry Morgan fought for England and were honoured by the Queen". After making several sweeping, tendentious statements about the police and government officials, it ended with the charge "well, enough is enough!" and signed off: One thousand black men.

Given its wide circulation, every effort must be made to ensure that its contents do not influence the impressionable and misguided. Earlier that day police detective, Harry Kooseram was killed execution style for no apparent reason. It is possible - though there is no evidence at this point - that Kooseram was targeted because of the hateful sentiments which have been recently directed against the police. The public awaits the police's findings into this matter. Why has it been so hard to apprehend a suspect? The shooter was seen by several persons, fled towards a dead end and then had to retrace his steps and run in another direction. Surely the trail was still warm by the time the police arrived and what about public-spirited citizens, the assailant's gun notwithstanding?

The escapees from prison are definitely not freedom fighters. They are dangerous criminals who are responsible for the murder of one prison officer, serious injury to another and perhaps other grave offences. Any attempt to glorify these men is a misguided excursion into extreme lawlessness and the police should be very interested in interviewing the authors and publishers of the leaflet. Whatever the grievances of those behind the pamphlet, recourse must be sought within the ambit of the law.

For its part, the PNC/R has dissociated itself from the contents of the pamphlet and has said that those who distributed it simply capitalised on its mobilisation. "This pamphlet was not published or circulated by the PNC/R or any of the persons associated with the organising of the funeral programme", the party said.

There are two issues that the party should take account of. Since this distribution occurred within an event it organised, there is a great onus on the PNC/R to ensure that those who read it are unmistakably aware that this was not the party's viewpoint and that the contents of the leaflet are grossly insupportable and dangerous. Merely mouthing this at a press conference is not enough. The PNC/R should take its case to bottom house meetings in the villages and wards of the city from which the marchers were drawn. The party would know which villages and wards these were.

Secondly, the pamphlet infiltration is another clear example of the PNC/R's failure to properly manage and control these events. The infiltrator/s should have been immediately identified and excluded from the procession and the offending pamphlets collected and disposed of. The sad truth is that PNC/R events continue to attract unsavory characters who either find that their views coincide politically with the PNC/R or are using the party's organisation to create mayhem and disorder. These persons pose a great risk to the country's stability and order and the PNC/R must take full responsibility for their actions. The splinter group which marched on the Bourda ground during the recent Test match and those who pelted police and hurled insults at the end of the Shaka Blair procession are cases in point. In the former, the PNC/R General Secretary Oscar Clarke stood firm against the dissenters by not diverting from the agreed route. He was however unable to prevail upon them to disperse. In the latter event, it was unfortunate that the PNC/R didn't try to head off the confrontation that occurred between some of the mourners and the police. While the skirmishing was not happening in the church during the formal PNC/R programme it was clearly occurring on the fringes of a party event. At a press conference two days after the march, the PNC/R's response was "we were not at that time aware of all that had transpired. However it was clear that the activities had nothing to do with the PNC/R programme". The PNC/R further argued that the police had not approached the party over any concerns about the crowd's behaviour that afternoon. That is really a poor excuse. The police had their hands full in reining in the disturbance and it was up to the PNC/R officials who were there and knew what was happening to take the initiative and intercede. There is no evidence that this was done.

No one denies the right of the PNC/R to undertake marches and protests of this type. It must, however, ensure that these do not degenerate into wanton attacks on the police and passers-by otherwise it will have to shoulder the blame for allowing the tail to do the wagging.