In Whose Name do we March?
by Rakesh Rampertab

The PPP/C, in its latest effort to combat the crime crisis in Guyana, has recently announced a public anti-crime campaign involving marches, cycle rides, vigils, et cetera. The question I want to ask the PPP/c regime is, "In Whose Name do we March?"

Ever since it came to power one decade ago, the policy against crime coming out of Freedom House has been atrocious and embarrassing, to say the least. The police in Guyana continue to suffer in noted ways. Although the high crime rate last year pushed the Community Policing Project (CPP), into revival gear, it still is to become a reality in which villagers can confide in.

PPP Not doing Enough to Combat Crime

There are two events that I would like to refer to, to demonstrate how reluctant the PPP/C has been to address crime, as they ought to, for what it is. First, the president made a public statement in the early days just after the elections, stating that the criminals attacks carried out against Indian people were class-oriented and not race-oriented. Then the police issued a report in June, stating contrary:
         1) Attacks bore an obvious racial trend with Indians being targeted because of their race.
         2) Attacks were meant in part to destabilize the country.

Neither the president nor his party made adjustments to their views in public; neither did people found it necessary to criticize the government.

The second case is the ROAR-organized protest against lax police practice at Albion (as a result of the high crime rate there). This unfortunately proceeded into the storming of a police station, which escalated into shooting, and the subsequent death of one man. The PPP/C did not respond early enough to the complains; when it did, its representative, Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gagraj, was booed and rejected. By the following Monday's evening, the damage was done-long before the president's arrival. Was ROAR was being punished here; after all, the PPP/C's brainchild, GAWU, issued a statement claiming that GAWU always takes care of its member's rights, and those (ROAR) who seek political mileage, should not be tolerated among traditional PPP stronghold areas. Previous to the protest, neither the president nor GAWU's Komal Chand, paid enough attention to the crime situation there; if they had, a protest would not have been necessary.

Serious criminal attacks have dominated the social landscape of Guyana since the March 2001 elections. First, the executions of Mervyn Barran (10), Bemchand Barran (43), and Dhanpaul Jagdeo (25), point to a crime with a political and racial message, because they did not represent wealth. Whereas anti-government attacks that overlapped into racial attacks on Indian people (e.g., public stripping of Bibi Nazmoon Khan, April 12), abated with the Jagdeo-Hoyte Dialogue, criminal attacks continued until present.

The Humiliation and Slaying of Primarily Indian People Continues Unabated

To demonstrate how ineffective the PPP has been in providing reasonable security for its supporters,here are a few cases. Rajnauth Mahadeo, Rahamat Ali of Brickery, East Bank Demerara, Shabudeen Kassim of Berbice, Garvin France, of Sophia, Bediwattie Tikchand, of Sophia, are all murdered business proprietors. Ms. Tikchand's firearm application (since July 2000) was still on hold when she took three bullets in her stomach as her husband watched helplessly.

Where victims were not killed, many (mostly women) have been severely brutalized with gun butts and/ or cutlasses. The family of Ester Budram (Fyrish, Corentyne) suffered such an attack; this elderly matriarch and one of her daughters were beaten on their heads with gun butts, as five criminals traumatized the women and their family (including children). The old woman did not speak for 24 hours. In Stanleytown, WCD, Babita Bhola and her family, were attacked by gunmen, one of whom held a gun to her 3-months-old baby and demanding cash, while another threatened to rape her. A similar threat was made against the baby of Indrani John of Rampoor, Berbice, who herself was severely beaten about the head in another attack.

Undisclosed rapes, stripping of adult women before their children and male relatives, the systematic brutalizing of women folks, the violent threats made against children, the gunning down of defenseless business proprietors, all contribute to an atmosphere in which the Indian psyche is severely humiliated and traumatized. The psychological and racial effects of this has already and will continue to leave deep scars in the Indian for the African community. Young children who watch their parents humiliated or gun downed are destined to grow with immense hatred for blacks, and this feeling will be passed on to their children.

The Need for the Army to Join in the Hunt

Since the escape (3 months ago) of the notorious group of 5 escapees, the police reported that some 18 serious crimes involving heavy or detrimental gunplay have occurred, though not all by this group. Some attacks by the groups showed additional, new members, as in the attack on Patrick and Sita Seebarran (owners of Patsan Trading Services, Georgetown). Additionally, the racial and political symbolism assumed by these self-acclaimed "freedom fighters" for blacks, is catching on. Their double execution of Ramdeo and Sita Persaud, of Annandale, is loaded with racial messages, as a response to the shooting death of one Hendricks (a friend of the five), killed by the Anti-Crime Unit (disfavored by the PNC/R).

Despite all of this, the PPP/C has refused to bring the Guyana defense Force (GDF) into a a direct hunt for the 5, but has kept the army's role at bay with the supply of logistics and intelligence to the police, and more recently, tactics to aid in the hunt. While it is recognized that the reputation of the police is at stake, the domestic security of Guyana currently is seriously at threat, and warrants a more direct role of the GDF. This is not the time for either the police or the government to be concerned with saving faces, at the expense of the safety of the populace.

So, in whose name should we march? The Indian populace should march, but NOT in the name or for the PPP/C. Any marches to be done by Indian legs and feet should be done in the name of all crime victims, andl those who do not desire to become future victims. The supporters of the PPP/C must decide; either they raise voices to the government and get solid results, or be silent and possibly become the next body carried to the seashore or cemetery. Either they march for their own welfare and safety, or they march for the politics and games of the PPP/C in its eternal squabble with the PNC/R.

Let the PPP/C recognize that it has failed miserably to offer the Guyanese population security. Let the PPP/C know that the people it considers its supporters do not only reside in Berbice, but also in Demerara, and they too deserve to live in relative peace. Let the PPP/C know that it must make serious, intelligent, and urgent changes NOW to its campaign not only to capture the five, but also to arrest the rampage of criminal activities across the coastal plain in general. Then and only then would it have fulfilled the first obligation to its constituents, who sent it into office in March 2001.

May 18, 2002 [Reprinted from
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