March 31, 2007
In the wee hours of Monday morning, a crime was committed so shocking in terms of bizarreness and cruelty that it can perhaps be termed a hate crime, particularly as it was perpetrated against members of a minority group-the indigenous people. If it was, then Guyana has ventured into very dangerous waters indeed. But even if it was not it should be firmly and condignly dealt with in such a way as to act as a deterrent to anyone harbouring similar thoughts.
The incident as related to this newspaper by the victims involved them visiting a city nightclub on Sunday night. After spending some time drinking at the club one member of the family of four-the only male in the group-became so inebriated that he spilt drink or drinks on a group of men at a nearby table in the establishment. The men demanded that the spilt drink be replaced along with "extra", the reporter was told which the family refused to do. They said they had no problem replacing the spilt drink, but saw no reason why they should have purchased extras and perhaps sensing that trouble would ensue, they proceeded to leave the place.
What happened next defies comprehension. The men did not seek to prevent them from leaving by insisting they pay for the drinks. So one imagines that they sat there for a few minutes and quickly hatched a plot to 'get back' at the people they felt had wronged them. By the time the group of men exited the nightspot the group of four - a husband and wife and the wife's mother and sister - had already managed to secure a taxi and were sitting in it about to go home.
Why that taxi driver did not just drive off when the men first accosted his passengers will forever remain a mystery, unless he decides to come forward and speak about it. However, the four people were dragged out of the cab, most likely, kicking and screaming. The victims said their attackers numbered about 20. Anyone being dragged out of a car by a group of men whom they do not know and with whom they had just had an altercation would know that they are not being dragged out to have a conversation. There would be panic; there would be terror the victims would not go passively.
So, we have a scenario of four people being forcibly removed from a taxi they have hired by a group of men. This is not taking place in a dark lonely street, it is in Sheriff Street, which had years ago earned the title "the street that never sleeps". This street has the most nightclubs/bars in any single street in the city and the most restaurants as well. It is almost never devoid of people and traffic as it is the main thoroughfare that connects the east coast and the east bank.
At 2 am on Monday, several other people would have been exiting bars and clubs and heading home. The victims said they saw many people on the street but no one went to their assistance. How damning. Has the milk of human kindness so soured in us that not a single soul thought s/he could intervene? Even if they did not want to get involved, because, as the victims said, two of their attackers had guns, could no one else in the vicinity have rung the police? What about the taxi driver who so abruptly lost his fare? Did he not think to ring the police? And this is a city where nearly every other citizen owns a cellular phone. Where were the police that morning, one wonders? Mind you, this is two days before the start of Cricket World Cup, when according to the hype put out by government officials we should have had thousands of visitors already in the city. Why were there no police patrols on Sheriff Street? One imagines that if the city has guests waiting to see the first cricket match on Wednesday they would have been sampling some of the nightlife. So why were there no regular police patrols on that busy street?
After they were dragged out of the car, the four people were beaten and robbed. The male in the group was stabbed after he put up a fight and two of the females were stripped of their clothing, robbed and physically assaulted in a sexual manner. What kind of a sick mind does that?
We were told that after the assault, the attackers returned to their partying and the victims were left shivering with fear and embarrassment on the street. And even then they were ignored. No one ventured forward to help them get a taxi, or to help the women to cover themselves. What is very sad about this aspect is that there must have been other women on the road at the time. Unfortunately, not one of them was a good Samaritan.
Then to crown it all off, when they finally were able to secure transportation, the taxi driver demanded payment to take them to the hospital and took one of the women's earrings as they had been robbed of all their cash. How uncharitable!
Calls by the Guyana Human Rights Association for a nightclub's licence to be suspended pending an investigation and its announcement of plans to hold a vigil on Sheriff Street yesterday, resulted in independent corroboration that the incident did take place-and from an unlikely source. The owner of the nightclub named by the victims said: "Those people were never in my place because I asked my security… they said the incident happened next door to the club." The silent indictment here is and they did nothing to help. One hopes that the ventilation this incident had received so far will stir the police to action and that justice will be served and soon.