Submitted by Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK: In the wake of last week’s Guyana Police shooting to death of three African-Guyanese protesters and wounding of thirty others in the mining town of Linden, the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID), says it is “dismayed” by the “deafening silence” from African-Guyanese members of Guyana’s People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government and has called on them to condemn the killings.
“I’m dismayed and frankly disgusted that African-Guyanese members of the PPP Cabinet have remained silent in light of the unjustifiable shootings and killings of African-Guyanese. This is a stunning lack of dignity and value for human life. Apparently, compassion for the lives of their fellow Afro-Guyanese citizens and a sense of common decency are is too much to ask of these PPP members. They seem so struck by the ‘Stockholm’ or house-slave” syndrome that they have lost their sense of identity,” CGID President Rickford Burke said Thursday.
Burke’s fire was directed at Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, Public Service Minister Dr. Jennifer Westford, Human Services Minister Jennifer Webster, Public Works Minister Robeson Benn, Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon, junior Finance Minister Juan Edghill, and junior Local Government Minister Norman Whittaker, the African-Guyanese members of President Donald Ramotar’s cabinet.
Burke said that while minorities in the PPP “ethnocry” have no real power, “black cabinet ministers turning a blind eye to Police killings of Afro-Guyanese, year after year, and the oppression and subjugation of the black population in Guyana is unconscionable and repugnant, even by PPP standards, to the universal principles of equality, human rights, freedoms and dignity, as well as justice for all regardless of class or race.”
He posited that their failure to speak out reeks of complicity and said “I’m in pain to fathom how they can live with themselves; how they in good conscience face the black community and further, what explanations they give their children for their inaction?”
Guyana Police on July 18th opened fire on a large group of peaceful, unarmed protestors killing three. They were part of a large demonstration protesting a 50 percent increase in electricity rates in Linden. Protestors had reportedly blocked the Wismar Bridge which facilitates vehicular traffic to and from the country’s vast and natural resource-rich hinterland region.
Riot police initially fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd from the bridge. The officers, sent in from the capital Georgetown, resorted to shooting protestors with live bullets after they refused to budge, killing Selwyn Boyea, 18, Ron Somerset, 19 – a Guyana Defense Force officer, and 54 year old Allan Williams. Over two dozen more were injured, some of whom remain critical in hospital.
Trinidad-based pathologist Professor Hubert Daisley observed the autopsy conducted by Guyanese medical officials. Yesterday he announced that the autopsies revealed that two of the three slain protesters were shot through the heart region with “bronze-tipped” metal bullets and the other was shot in the back.
The revelation that “bronze-tipped” metal bullets (live rounds) were used to shoot at protestors sparked a new round of outrage as the Guyana Police Force has vehemently maintained that only rubber bullets were used in the operation.
Facing withering criticism across the board and extended crippling protests in Linden, the government this week gave in to demands of the opposition and announced a commission of inquiry into the fiasco. It also removed Linden Police divisional commander, Clifton Hicken.
Following these initial measures, Ramotar addressed the nation, appealing for calm and a return to normalcy in Linden. Opposition Leader David Granger slammed Ramotar for failing to adequately address the situation and filed a motion of no confidence in National Security Minister Clement Rohee in Parliament. Opposition politicians and Police insiders accuse Rohee of giving the orders to shoot. Rohee has acknowledged speaking to Police Commissioner Leroy Brummell and directly to Hicken just before the shooting began but denied giving orders to open fire on protesters. He remains defiant despite widespread calls for his resignation.
PPP MPs, in a raucous sitting of Parliament Wednesday, failed to block Granger’s no-confidence motion against Rohee from being tabled and debated. PPP MP and advisor to Ramotar, Gail Teixeira, conscious of the government’s minority status in the House, strenuously argued that the motion violated parliamentary “Standing Orders” as the government had no prior notice. The Speaker of Parliament, Raphael Trotman, would have none of it. He dismissed her objections and placed the motion to a vote. It was carried 33 to 27.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall struggled to persuade the Parliament that it has no constitutional powers to pass a no-confidence motion against Rohee but his arguments were eviscerated by opposition MPs. Debate continues on Monday.
After debate commenced, the Ramotar administration in a desperate effort to salvage its image, frantically rushed to the press to announce that the Linden electricity rate hike had been placed on hold. It also leaked information that the officers who shot the protesters were to be charged.
Burke said that he was “dismayed and made nauseous” as he watched PPP ministers and MP’s merely offered insincere sympathies but refused to condemn the killings in Parliament. “Such depravity and disregard for human life is scandalous. It’s by their design injurious to national harmony,’ he added.