(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 29 December 2010)
There is something so vital about living a life of freedom that causes humans to be willing to readily lay down their lives to ensure liberty for their posterity. Wicked governments have – for thousands of years – tried to quash the liberty of the people, and for just as long there have been those who have fought with their dying breath to preserve it.
I watched closely to see the response of the people when Freddie Kissoon and Mark Benschop were arrested and held for days for a mere traffic violation. That major blunder by the powers-that-be did exactly what I thought it would do; it stirred the fire inside the people. Regardless of what they think of Kissoon and Benschop, people know a wrong when they see it.
I do not know where I heard this phrase, probably a movie, but it has stuck with me because it is how I truly feel about liberty. “If you kill me, a thousand more will rise to take my place!” I saw that very sentiment stirring inside the Guyanese people when Freddie and Mark were unjustly incarcerated. I saw people who would normally go about their lives without giving thought to the government and its actions, stirred to the point of being vocal.
This is heartening. It means that the fire that burns inside us all to preserve liberty and justice is still very much alive. ‘Tis true, the people seem more than content to allow Freddie and Mark to fight this battle alone most of the time, but it was more than obvious to me that when it seemed the freedom of these two men was in jeopardy, the people were ready to shake their apathy for the sake of preserving justice and liberty.
Personally speaking, I would fight with every ounce of strength against any power that would threaten my liberty. No government, no power, no man has the right to unjustly revoke a person’s liberty. The fact that this could be done as a political vendetta or at the mere whim of someone with power to make an example of those who take a stand for the good of the people – this is what causes those with an upright conscience to break their silence.
There is yet another case of unjust detainment. Well-known actor and comedian, Lyndon ‘Jumbie’ Jones, was detained in what is now being called a case of mistaken identity. What an intellectual insult. Do they really think anyone believes these lies? ‘Jumbie’ is on television several times a week – people know what he looks like. This is a case that could and should have been wrapped up in a matter of minutes. But he was held over the entire holiday weekend. This disgusts me.
I have generally kept quiet lately on matters concerning government indiscretions because Freddie pretty well has this area covered and I have other issues on which I want to write (domestic violence, women’s issues, etc). But when the liberty of others is on the line, I cannot help but take a firm stand against the injustice.
Lest we forget, Freddie is a journalist. If what has happened to Freddie in the last year had taken place in the U.S. to a journalist, there would be an uprising the likes of which this planet has never seen before. This would be the same across the entire world in regards to any democratic government.
Mark my words, unless the people stand up to the government when it jails Freddie and Mark for protesting a dumpsite that is an environmental disaster, the people will be the next ones jailed for murmuring dissent. This injustice from the powers-that-be cannot be tolerated. Apathy is not Guyana’s friend.
At the same time, I am most confident that the government is making a huge blunder for which it will pay dearly. It is making a martyr out of Freddie. The more they continue their attacks against him, the more the people run to his side in support. Again, it matters not what these people think of Freddie himself, it matters only that Freddie is able to freely function in his role as a journalist and a citizen. Freedom matters. Justice matters.
If Freddie disappears, there will be many, many more who will rise to take his place. This is what the government does not realise. The people understand there is a price that comes with freedom and are willing to pay that price – just like Freddie. In the musical version of Les Miserables, in the final speech Enjolras (a devout believer in democratic freedom) gives to the students before they make their last stand at the barricade and die, he said, “Let others rise to take our place, until the Earth is free!”
There seems to be a strong undercurrent of discontent lately from the ruling party’s constituents. Not all is well in paradise. This disgruntlement, combined with the government’s flagrant disregard for freedom and justice, could spell a major political shake-up in the coming months. There have been too many major mistakes lately – like arresting Freddie and Mark for protesting and holding them unjustly for days.
In all honesty, the fact that they were arrested seems like a knee-jerk, childish response by the government. A temper tantrum perhaps? It was certainly not a well thought-out plan for the betterment of the nation or a strategic public relations stunt for the party. The entire deed blew up in their face and it unleashed a stirring in the people to fight for freedom.
For those in the government who think they can smother freedom and justice, understand me now – you cannot. Instead, you bring your party in peril by being ignorant of human history. The people will fight for their freedom and for justice. My advice is that for the New Year, you should focus on the job you are supposed to be doing and stop giving the “doomsayers” so much to write about.