by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 2 March 2006)
Any one who reads my column on a regular basis will expect this column to rail against the PPP for being unable to maintain some reasonable semblance of stability. Been there, done that.
Over and over in my head I keep repeating to myself, “I can’t believe eight people died. I can’t believe there was an actual shootout for an entire hour. I can’t believe the police did not show up until an hour after the shootout was done.”
There is nothing in my life that prepares me to empathise with the terror that ran through those near the shootout on Sunday. I have lived in fear of my life before, but I have never had to fear random terror from heartless gunmen.
I am at a total loss for words to explain how deeply aggrieved I am about this horrific event. Throughout Monday and Tuesday, I knew I wanted to address this issue, but could not find the words. I am travelling this week and what should be an enjoyable trip has been heavily overshadowed by this violence.
Even from thousands of miles away, my heart breaks for the families of the victims and I wrestle with comprehending how little value was placed on these lives – not only by those who stole their lives, but also by those who are expected to protect them.
I am visiting my mother-in-law and her new husband who are both Guyanese. When I finally talked to them about this last night and told them about my feelings, they did not seem shocked at all to the degree that I am. It was almost as if they had been exposed to this type of violence to the point they had become desensitised to it. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s Guyana.”
I thought I would wake up this morning (on Wednesday) feeling like I had a better handle on my feelings and be able to write something coherent that could make a difference. I was wrong.
I cannot understand and I cannot reason this one through. Even worse, I feel like there is not one damn thing I can do about it.
If I feel this way from thousands of miles away, I cannot imagine the heaviness that must permeate every aspect of life in Guyana this week. I suppose it would be as thick as the ominous fear that must eclipse all other emotions in the hearts of the people.
I may not be able to work through this gloom enough to articulate my feelings or find a way to offer some hope, but I know full well what I do not want. I refuse to become so acclimated to this level of violence that I am not appalled by senseless killings. I will not succumb to the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness – and I hope you do not fall prey to these feelings either.
If we give ourselves over to these dark feelings, then those scoundrels have won.
I just took a little break from writing this column to envision a wonderful Guyana. I sat here for a while to think about what Guyana would be like if the criminal elements were under control. I thought about a Guyana free from the drug lords and political thugs. I thought about a Guyana free from violence.
I pictured a country with a strong infrastructure that had reliable streetlights, clean streets and no flooding. I dreamt about a Guyana with a strong and thriving economy, highly rated schools and successful businesses. I thought about a flourishing tourist industry that boasted of beautiful hotels and the best customer service in the region.
If I prayed, this is what I would pray for today. I know many Guyanese are praying people, so I hope you say a prayer today that resembles my little daydream.
I may not pray, but I do believe in the power of the people. The situation in Guyana is all wrong. Politics as usual has produced violence as usual and it is time to try some thing different.
I believe it would be unethical to use this tragic situation and the deaths of these precious lives to preach change or to rail against the current government. I don’t think I have the will to fight today anyhow. However, when we find our footing again and regain the will to fight, I think more than ever the outcry will be “enough is enough.”