Now you hear me, now you don’t
July 18, 2004
In this July month, when we recall those who were killed by the brutal PNC regime, it is timely that we ask, whether that party has changed at all.
This past week, the country observed the anniversary of the killing of the ballot box martyrs: the murder of Fr. Bernard Drake, 25 years ago; the death of PPP activist, Michael Forde, 40 years ago; and the killing of a young activist of the youth arm of the PPP in July of 2002.
Earlier this month, a group of women, who formed part of a group protesting the death squad issue, marched down Regent Street, the main shopping area, and were successful in intimidating businesses and shutting quite a few stores temporarily.
The police who came on the scene made no arrests and so far no one has been charged.
If the police are incapable of dealing with civil strife at such a low-keyed level, then those in charge of the force should do the honourable thing. Guyana cannot continue to have its law enforcement agencies handicapped to the extent that a small group of women can almost shut down the city, openly threaten police officers to turn their guns against them, and yet no single arrest has been made when there is ample video evidence of who the persons concerned were.
What signals are we sending to investors when they see the ease with which the commercial zone can be disrupted; and when they witness the failure of the police to act against those involved? Has anything really changed?
This sort of ineptitude by the authorities cannot be condoned, and there needs to be initiated some sort of inquiry as to the reasons for the political inaction in so far as this incident is concerned.
I urge the ROAR party led by Ravi Dev to immediately table in the National Assembly, a question as to why, in the face of overwhelming footage of those who were involved in the intimidation of citizens, no charges have been laid against any of those involved.
The police need to be questioned as to whether they have interrogated anyone in this matter.
The United States Embassy that was quick to recently recall the travel visas of the Home Affairs Minister, a former top cop and businessman, Reeaz Khan, must also answer as to why they have failed to act in a similar vein in this case.
Unless they do, this column will raise this matter with the United States Department of State.
Twenty-five years ago, death squads were used by the then ruling party to terrorise political opponents. Vigilantes were also used to gun down criminals.
The PNC has never been brought to book over its crimes in this country and despite being given a reprieve by the PPP government, have failed to admit to their mistakes of the past.
The one PNC leader, who had the moral fortitude to stand up and state that the party had made mistakes in the past, found himself under threat of expulsion.
It was the same unrepentant PNCR after the incident on Regent Street a few Fridays ago. The PNCR has not come out and condemned those who were involved in the intimidation of storeowners. Yet, they would want the entire Guyanese society to believe that they are serious about the Rule of Law.
The party’s Rule of Law campaign now lacks credibility and should no longer, if it ever were, be taken seriously.
If the PNCR cannot come out and say that the actions of those who tried to shut the city down is wrong, how can they be taken seriously when they convince Ravi Dev that henceforth the actions of the political opposition would be held to a higher standard?
Why has it been so difficult for a party that is marching and protesting breaches of the rule of law, to equally admit that part of its protest activity went outside of the bounds of the law? I shall await and see whether the party will take actions against its activists who were involved in the Regent Street incident.
The PNCR has explained the incident as part of the frustration of the Guyanese people. This is the PNCR’s usual tactic whenever protests go wrong. Whenever things turn sour, the PNC disclaims the protest. It is never theirs.
They disown the protestors but show a minimal of understanding towards the unlawful action. Was this not the case in 1997-98, when the PNCR claimed that they were adopting the protests against alleged electoral irregularities?
Was it not the same PNCR who said that the East Coast Demerara violence was a spontaneous reaction to marginalisation? Was it not the same PNCR that mobilised for the July 3, 2002 march; that said the event was organised by another group?
This is the same old party that 25 years ago, knifed to death a photographer taking pictures of their ‘death squad’ at work.
This is the same PNCR whose soldiers shot and killed two young men who were trying to prevent the army from taking away the ballot boxes unaccompanied; this is the same PNCR, whose agents, operating under a terrorist plot known as X-13, blew Michael Forde to splinters.
Bharrat Jagdeo has decided to end the constructive engagement process. He waited too long. There were numerous incidents prior to his return from the CARICOM meeting in Grenada, which should have led him to call off the process.
Now that he has done so, he should turn his mind to inquiring why no charges have been laid against the group that intimidated Regent Street businesses.
If a party does not have the courage to condemn breaches of the rule of the law by its own supporters, can it ever be trusted with political power?
Guyanese, who cherish freedom, are not at all amused by the PNCR’s practice of “now you hear me, now you don’t”, politics.