by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 25 April 2006)
Over the weekend 80,000 people in Brussels took to the streets in a silent march in protest of a young man who was killed on April 12 when he refused to give his MP3 player to some thugs with a knife. The boy was stabbed five times.
Imagine that 80,000 people marched in protest of one young man – of whom many of the protestors did not even know. According to an article from the BBC on this event, some footage of the robbery and murder suggests that the alleged criminals were of North African descent. However, the mother of the slain boy said in a statement that she refuses to make her son's murder a racial issue.
The article also said the mother told a Belgian newspaper, "Don't ask me to hate all Arabs. The youth that killed my son are thugs but don't generalise." Family members had requested that the protest be a silent march without banners or any signs of political affiliation.
And that is exactly what happened, a peaceful march of 80,000 people in protest of a senseless killing over an MP3 player. The world has taken note of this event because of its large numbers and the respectful restraint that honours the death of a young man. Surely a minister of the government in Guyana deserves no less. Surely the dead from the Agricola massacre deserve nothing less than to be honoured in such a way.
When a drug dealer or criminal kills someone else who is involved their shady business, we tend to just shake our heads in sorrow because it is understood that if you live by the sword, then you will die by the sword.
However, when an innocent person or a good person dies at the hand of one of these miscreants, we are outraged at the injustice and have a drive to see the travesty redeemed by society. Such is the case with many of the murders that have taken place in the last few weeks.
I do not know the identities of these murderers anymore than the next person and I try to avoid speculation because nothing good comes from unfounded accusations. However, I can tell you this much, there is someone who is playing games with the minds of the Guyanese people and they are using the precious lives of your neighbours to accomplish his/her goal.
I completely admire the restraint of the mother from Brussels. Her wise council could have possibly saved even more lives from a violent death and it was clear that she did not want her son's memory to be connected to such brutish behaviour. The march in Brussels accomplished its goal without more violence.
Guyana would do well to follow the example of this mother and practice restraint as it honours one of its leaders.
I wrote an article not too long ago using the examples of how protests in France and the U.S . have changed the previously established direction of their respective governments and suggested that such an event could possibly help Guyanese to get the attention of their own government. Freddie shot this idea down and said it could never work.
Likewise, another Guyanese recently told me that no matter how much the people want to change their current predicament, they would never vote outside of their race. I have to admit that after this particular conversation, I felt defeated and hopeless for a while. If the people refuse to change, then what hope is there for Guyana?
However, my typically optimistic personality has been restored and I once again re-affirm that I believe the people can and will change. I may be naïve, but I am certainly not ignorant of the many obstacles that stand in the way of accomplishing this goal. I do have one important asset on my side – reality.
The reality is that unless Guyana changes its voting patterns and political expectations, it will continue to read headlines of death, crime and corruption. The reality is that if Guyana ever expects to have a healthy economy, it will have to break up the current political monopoly and vote in a mixture of parties with varying political interests that represent the issues of the constituency – not the race.
I know the Constitution must change too, but I simply do not see this happening in an effective manner as long as one party is given majority rule again. I still refuse to believe that Guyana cannot overcome its racial barriers and political devotions to demand a competent governing system.
If 80,000 Guyanese showed up for a silent march, without banners or political affiliation, the world would take notice that the people are demanding change and respect the restraint that was necessary to organise such an event.
What other choice does Guyana have? To trust the lives of the people to the current political dinosaurs? That has obviously not worked thus far, so why should we think it would work in the future? Should Guyanese just hope that the criminal elements will decide to just up and leave one day and take all of the murders and corruption with them? That too is unrealistic.
So although I might be a bit naïve to maintain my optimism that Guyana can choose a better life over one more tiny taste of revenge, I believe that the people's desire for a good life (without murder, crime and corruption) will overpower the complacency and misplaced political loyalties.
I believe the best way to honour the death of the Minister, the people of Agricola and Waddell is to completely refuse to allow these unseen criminal forces to play with the minds of the people anymore and to reject the gut-reaction to remain loyal to failing political parties. For once, Guyanese should be true to themselves.