Submitted by Lincoln Lewis, General Secretary, 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.” Peace and unity are premised on justice and injustice anywhere poses a threat to peace and unity every where. The police shooting of persons engaged in peaceful social action is not where the people of this country desire to go or should be going. This action is a reminiscent of the May 1999 shooting of unarmed striking public servants in front of John Fernandes wharf.
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forward but sits in the abyss of socio-economic and political decay caused by human greed, repressive management and an outdated political system unsuited to our need for peaceful co-existence and development.
The United Nations Secretary-General noted in his 2003 Report on strengthening the role of the United Nations in promoting free and fair elections that, “experience has also shown that, just as the price of exclusion is often violence, the benefit of political inclusion is a much better prospect of stability.” This nation desires stability which can only be achieved through political justice since politics is about people, their well-being, and their development.
The fact that the unattended grievances which gave cause for another street protest today, and of which the State police have resorted to violence on a non-violent group is a grave act of injustice, under a Commander-in-Chief, who days ago promised this nation to do business differently from his predecessor. The bloody era of intolerance has not come to an end. The bloodied bodies and injuries of those who were the recipient of State police barbarity is the responsibility of Donald Ramotar and the blood of these people will forever stain his record and his hands, as presently responsibility is his to give leadership towards the establishment of society where the rights of all citizens are respected.
Mr. Ramotar came out of the bowels of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) that for years trek to Enmore to honour the five martyrs and say to the world that the State guns must not be turned on workers and citizens engaging in acts to uphold and respect their rights. Conscious of the road Mr. Ramotar has travelled we call on him to work towards putting systems in place to realise those noble dreams of the martyrs that he has given voice to over the years.
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. Further, while varying views are being heard regarding permission granted by the police, this does not give justification to the use of violence to contain a peaceful, non violent crowd, especially when their leaders were negotiating with the officers on the ground to have concerns handled in a manner respectful of their civil and political right to assembly and expression in ensuring that their electoral rights are equally upheld.
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. People all over are defending their rights to be recognised and demonstrating that they are prepared to pay the ultimate price to put an end to exclusionary governance and fundamental human rights violations.
GTUC calls on Mr. Donald Ramotar to demonstrate, if he is not party to this recent state police violence under his watch, to: 1) denounce the barbarity of those under his command; 2) commission an enquiry into the events of this day that resulted in violence against peaceful protestors and 3) partner with civil society, political groups and voices of reason to address the grievances being adumbrated by the aggrieved, for justice when served will precede peace and stability that this nation needs.
see local news:
Several hurt after cops fire rubber bullets at APNU protesters
Posted By Stabroek editor On December 6, 2011 @ 11:11 am In Local | No Comments
Police this morning opened fire with rubber bullets on APNU protesters on Hadfield Street leaving at least five persons with wounds.
When Stabroek News arrived at the Georgetown Public Hospital two elderly persons bleeding from the legs were being rushed into the emergency room. Those seeking medical attention at the institution are Member of Parliament Joan Baveghems age 69; Sarah Johnson age 75; Brentol Holder age 61 of Pattensen, East Coast Demerara, a boy said to be around 8 years old and an unidentified woman.
Stabroek News was at the scene when the incident occurred at around 10.15 am. A large group left the Square of the Revolution and headed along Brickdam. They then turned the corner near the NIS and proceeded into Hadfield Street where they were met by about half a dozen armed policemen.
The ranks were heard over a loud speaker urging the crowd to disperse. The crowd failed to heed the warning and at some point there was a clash between ranks and some of the protestors resulting in shots being fired.
The crowd then scattered in different directions while the injured who were left lying on the ground were picked up and rushed to the hospital. The crowd has regrouped at the Square of the Revolution contemplating its next move. The APNU supporters have been protesting over the results of the general elections.
APNU member and attorney at law Debra Backer told reporters outside the Brickdam Police Station that though she was not present at the time of the shooting, she was told that attorney James Bond and former army chief Eddie Collins were also injured.
She said that the two men were being held at the Brickdam Police Station and that she had been unable to assess their condition as the police were not allowing her access.
Stabroek News was told that the two are among several persons being held at the Brickdam and the East La Penitence Police Stations.
Attorney-at-law Basil Williams along with others engaged Police Commander George Vyphuis in a meeting aimed at resolving the situation. Just before noon, minutes after Attorney Nigel Hughes was granted entry into the station compound, Williams and Bond exited in a police vehicle.
Mathis (only name given), a confectionary seller whose 10 year old son was wounded recounted to Stabroek News at the hospital that they were walking when they heard gunshots. Sara Johnson told a similar story. According to the elderly woman she heard police saying “disperse, disperse!” before shots were fired.
Police in their statement this afternoon said:
“At about 0900h this morning a crowd of persons gathered at the Square of the Revolution purportedly to be part of a march organized by the Youth Coalition For Transformation, an organisation headed by Attorney-at-Law James Bond and is reportedly the youth arm of APNU.
“This group had previously applied for permission to use a noisy instrument at the Square of the Revolution on 4th and 5th December, 2011, with timings. Yesterday December 05, 2011, at about 1450h. they applied for a Youth March for Change around the city. No date or time was stated.
“The group later informed the police that they wanted to march from today Tuesday December 06, 2011. This was in breach of the statutory 48 hours notice and no permission was granted to the organisation. This was communicated to Mr. James Bond.
“The persons gathered at the Square of the Revolution were warned that they should disperse as no permission had been granted for any march.
“Subsequently a group of persons headed by retired Brigadier Edward Collins was seen formed up on Brickdam facing west and, despite being warned, about 300 persons marched off west along Brickdam. The police then engaged them and they turned south into Winter Place and then west along Hadfield Street and continued despite being warned again, and the police fired rubber bullets at them.
“Another section of the crowd turned north into Winter Place and several persons were arrested.
“A number of persons sustained minor cuts and bruises.
“Shortly after, at about 1055h; another crowd was seen heading east along Duncan Street headed by retired Brigadier Edward Collins and James Bond. The police engaged the crowd and arrested Edward Collins and James Bond. It appeared that they had injuries from an earlier engagement with the police.
“All the arrested persons were taken to the Brickdam Police Station from where those persons who were injured were escorted for medical treatment.
“The Guyana Police Force wishes to issue another warning that no unlawful march, procession or meeting will be tolerated and that it will deal firmly with any person or persons wishing to breach the peace and disobey the laws.”
Schoolchildren affected by teargas
After the crowd which was fired upon by the police dispersed around 11 am, officers proceeded to clear the area around the Square of the Revolution which had been the staging ground for the protest.
As orders were issued on the hand-held radios of the lawmen, a group of officers proceeded to the area in front of the St Sidwell’s Primary School at Hadfield Street and Vlissengen Road and fired teargas into a small crowd of persons who gathered to see what was happening in the area.
The lawmen then proceeded to arrest several persons but as this was being done children within the nearby primary school were affected by teargas. Several parents rushed to the school as the teachers made arrangements to take students who were affected by the teargas to the hospital. At this point the police officers continued to fire teargas and rubber bullets at the small crowd which was dispersing as the schoolchildren wailed frantically. Several teachers from the school pleaded with the officers to cease the operation outside of the school to no avail.
Several parents also rushed to a nearby daycare on Hadfield Street, located obliquely opposite to the primary school.
Head teacher of the school Donna Morgan told the media that eight students and a teacher sought attention at a city hospital for the teargas.
She said that the students were in great fear at the sight of the armed officers proceeding in the direction of the school. She said that as the lawmen fired into the small group of persons who had gathered at the area the students became very agitated and confused.