Guyana has a culture of violence- Granger
Stabroek News
September 15, 2002

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Ethnic tensions, stretching back to the sixties have inured Guyanese to each other's suffering, David Granger said in delivering the feature address at the annual conference of the Pan African Movement, Guyana Branch.

Retired GDF Brigadier, David Granger who is Editor of the Guyana Review Magazine, was speaking at the organisation's 14th anniversary conference held at the Ocean View Convention Centre, Liliendaal on Thursday.

His speech under the theme of the event: "Renaissance, Reparations, Restoration and Repatriation", examined the current situation in the country and traced the saga of violence in Guyana, beginning with the Atlantic slave trade and the enslavement of Africans by Europeans.

Granger noted that Guyanese have become inured to news of unidentified bodies floating in the water conservancy, horrific traffic accidents, babies burnt to death in houses, wives maimed, mutilated or murdered by husbands, street children, homelessness and police killings. These all seem to be okay, as long as the victims belong to the other side, he lamented.

Granger observed that many people are concerned not only with the current criminal violence but a culture of violence. He argued that at the administrative level the pattern of extra-judicial killings of minorities by the police is well established and the governing side seems slow to investigate or punish the rogues responsible. At the social level, the abuse of women, for example the documented exploitation of Amerindian women, has often been ignored.

Granger also contended that "the present wave of violence can be comprehended only by examining the failure to deal decisively with a range of criminal activities, some of which arose from the depressing decade of the 1980s. "Narcotics trafficking; money-laundering; gold-smuggling; gun-running and extra-judicial killing have institutionalised crime and the employment of rogue elements of the Guyana Police Force to protect, instead of punish, criminality have led to a collapse of confidence, if not contempt, for the police with alarming but predictable consequences."

He declared that "violence hurts both the victim and the perpetrator and, to the extent that African-Guyanese are involved, violence should be condemned and brought to an end." He urged African Guyanese to be concerned about this situation as many stereotypes have been formulated and "....a social construction of reality is in train."

Granger said this collective violence was not solely a result of ethnic tensions. It was more the response of deprived people to unbearable and oppressive conditions and what was true then, may be true today.

The collective violence so evident in 1997, and which continues in its various permutations today, can be explained in part by the events of 1964, particularly the period of 165 days from February 12 to July 27. Those were the days of wrath, Granger said. "It is necessary to recall these bloody events of the past if solutions to the troubles of the present are to be found.... Families still possess photo albums and paper clippings of loved ones lost during the `disturbances'," the retired brigadier noted.

It is for Africans to decide how they will handle this period of history, Granger suggested. But he added " blame or guilt should not be attached to one group. The evidence points to the ability of political leaders to mobilise members of their own ethnic group for political ends."

Granger said violent behaviour may be triggered by feelings of frustration or deprivation resulting from peoples' perceptions of the discrepancy between what they feel they are justifiably entitled to and hope to achieve, and what society actually delivers or is capable of providing.

Granger said the danger of a frustrated population resorting to violence could be averted "...only when there is evidence that the dignity of each person is respected and that basic human rights are observed and protected."

"Guyana has enough resources and land for all its people, and more, to enjoy a good life. The African people have struggled to humanise `Plantation Guyana'. It is impossible to speak of any sphere of public activity...without acknowledging the contribution of African pioneers," he stated, adding that no one (regardless of their ethnicity) can live in constant fear and insecurity as peace and safety is sought by all.

"But for Africans who have been the victims of the most brutish violence in history, the benefits of a country without violence, a future of dignity are inestimable."