No group must be allowed to take the law in their own hands
January 11, 2004
Shafeek Bacchus is the third son of a hard-working Indian cattle farmer I grew up calling "Uncle Manoo". The family had been living in that area of lodge for eons, and the children grew up and attended school fully integrated with their Afro-Guyanese counterparts.
The Bacchuses were a hard-working and friendly family held in much regard by their neighbors and others in the area. Throughout the turbulent sixties I can remember Manoo, my father and other grown men sitting under one of two Sankoka trees on Princess Street discussing the politics of the day amiably and without the kind of rancour evident in such discussions today. Lodge was a village then, and when one crossed Cemetery Road into this idyllic neighbourhood, the distinctions of colour and hair texture seemed to fade away from the interaction between the mosaic of peoples that made up its population.
Every Sunday after church the youth would come together in groups and journey to the Lamaha canal to swim and frolic, pick jamoons and auntie desmond to make wine, and feast on the sugar cane growing on the other side of the canal. Manoo would slaughter cows and sheep during Hindu and Christian festive occasions, and he would parcel out and deliver portions to his immediate neighbours, 99% of whom were Afro-Guyanese. Every kid in the area chased Manoo's cows, helped to milk them from time to time, and drank of the warm milk fresh from the cows' breasts.
It is truly a sad thing to hear of this tragedy visiting the lives of a remarkable Guyanese family.
Shafeek's death has opened up the pandora's box of horrors that has been a conspiratorial secret among all but the general population for some time now. Guyana is not America. We do not have thousands of miles of highways and byways to provide easy escape for the perpretrators of drive bys and other armed motorized criminal activities. There is simply no way this kind of organized activity could have been carried out without some form of official sanction and assistance. And where has the independent press been all of this time? What kind of journalism is being practiced when such activities fail to incite the curiosity of reporters, and impel them to probe deeply into whispered information being disseminated at every street corner and in every bar.
Could it be that they too like the general public, knew of the powers behind this apparent crusade but were afraid to give public voice to what they knew or reasonably suspected was going on? Could it be that as a consequence of the rampant violence following the jail break they perversely misidentified with the sentiment of this posse, this vigilante force that proclaimed itself judge, jury and executioner of presumed or accused wrong doers? I sincerely hope for Guyana's sake that this is not so.
If there is a mission statement for Law Enforcement Bodies patterned along the line of the British Commonwealth Legal System it is the axiom that, "Justice must not only be done, it must also manifestly appear to have been done". Persons accused of crimes, regardless of how horrible those crimes might be, should be brought before the competent authority charged with determining their guilt or innocence, and meting out punishment in accordance with the law of the land. For if the worst among us is denied that right of justice, then the best among us will find themselves being denied likewise, and by their silence would be undeserving of that which they denied others. There can be no exceptions. No person or persons must be allowed to take the law into their own hands for the purpose of meting out justice against selected sections of the citizenry. The response to whistle blower George Bacchus' revelation by the independent press and the Government will determine whether ours is a society of justice and fairness, or one in which absolute power has been usurped by an unlawful band of conspirators.
Keith R Williams