Guyana: Police Versus Protesters

A new president has taken his place at the helm of Guyanese government following the country's recent general elections, but while the (predominantly Indian-backed) incumbent People's Progressive Party got re-elected, it also lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in nearly twenty years. There are concerns as to whether Donald Ramoutar's “new” government will be able to garner opposition support in the house in order to actually get things done.

In the wake of the postponement of election results, the national mood was edgy. Guyana-Gyal vocalized the unspoken tensions in this post:

A thin thread o’ fear been tightening ‘round town since election date announce.

Veggie vendor tell me in pure Creolese, Me nah wha’ go happen to ahbee. I don’t know what will happen to us.

What gon happen if the government party win and some people who don’t like the result take to protesting, beating up citizens, burning shops, looting and so on and so forth.

She went on to say, though that “nothing bad is going to happen” and explained why:

Because the people who used to promote the violence are now sick or getting sick; others have one leg in life and the next leg in the grave, and others are dead. Besides, the young people of this country are just not into that sort of behaviour.

They are way too cool and way too hip, and they’re friends with each other, lots of intermarrying going on now. They don’t have time for that sort of nonsense. And look at the political parties today. All mixed up racially. Besides, our last elections was so peaceful, not a sign of trouble.

She did, however, issue one caveat:

I say all this knowing that I can be wrong.

The violence unexpectedly came after the new president was already sworn into office. Bloggers were yesterday talking about an incident in which “police opened fire with rubber bullets and teargas on supporters of the opposition coalition APNU who proceeded on a march down Brickdam without the required permission to do so.” Demerara Waves posted an account of what transpired here, while Live in Guyana republished the official police statement about the confrontation in this post.

In a show of solidarity, Barbados Underground republished a message sent to them by Lincoln Lewis, the General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress:

December 6, 2011 is another dark day in the history of this country and coming less than a week after Mr. Donald Ramotar promised this nation ‘peace and unity.’

There is an inhumane, naked intolerance for dissent and the rights of citizens of this country. Guyana is not moving forward but sits in the abyss of socio-economic and political decay caused by human greed, repressive management and an outdated political system unsuited to our need for peaceful co-existence and development.

For those who hold the view that the march was illegal, thereby giving credence to the police turning their guns on citizens, let it be known that where any infraction of the law exists (perceived or real), it is the court that determines guilt and penalty, not the police who sought to do so by shooting citizens.

Such political intolerance in these modern times are unacceptable. It symbolises what Guyanese are being forced to accept and live with even as the rest of the world opens up.

It remains to be seen whether Guyanese bloggers themselves will open up about the issue; most of them have remained deafeningly silent.

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