Guyana needs change of political morality – GHRA
In its first statement on the Agricola unrest two Thursdays ago, the human rights group, GHRA yesterday said that Guyana needs a change of political morality and a politics of mutual confidence rather than politics driven by mistrust.
Saying that the decision of residents to block the East Bank corridor at the height of commuter traffic was an excessive response to their grievance over the favoured treatment of one of the police suspects in the killing of 17-year old Agricola youth, Shaquille Grant, the Guyana Human Rights Association criticized the political parties for adversarial and uncivil conduct over decades and said that Guyanese are tired of being taken to the brink by politically induced thuggery and the racist attitudes of leaders unwilling to put their ethnic support at risk.
The full statement follows:
GUYANA NEEDS A POLITICS OF MUTUAL CONFIDENCE NOT ONE DRIVEN BY DISTRUST
The ruling party’s criticism of the GHRA silence on Agricola is puzzling since the media outlets it controls, namely the Guyana Chronicle and NCN TV have not published any GHRA press releases for several years. Indeed, the PPP could not even take the trouble to send a copy of its Release to the GHRA. Nonetheless the point about why the GHRA has not yet commented on the incidents has no doubt been noticed by more balanced minds as well and merits a comment.
Condemning the violence by the lawless elements who took over the Agricola protest can be done readily. Commending the police for their manner in which they handled intense provocation is similarly straight-forward. The GHRA does both without reservation. How to characterize the behavior of the political parties most involved in the Agricola events, however, is what contributed to a delayed response on the part of the GHRA.
Our political culture is dominated by political parties to a degree unprecedented in the English-speaking Caribbean in that individual politicians are accountable to no one except their leaders and the leaders are accountable only to themselves. At no point are politicians constrained in their speech or their actions by the knowledge that at some point they must personally account to electors. One is constantly shocked by the energy devoted by Guyanese politicians to contaminating, in various despicable ways, all the relationships within communities by exploiting vulnerabilities, particularly manipulating ethnicity.
The initial responses of the Agricola community to block the main North-South corridor at the height of commuter traffic was an excessive response to their grievance over privileged treatment of one of the police suspects in the shooting of 17-year old Shaquille Grant. The grievance was legitimate, the response was not. To date neither of the opposition parties has condemned this protest action to our knowledge. Dr. Luncheon’s provocative “ready to rumble” remark earlier in the day was followed later by senior functionaries of the ruling party capitalizing on the disorder by exaggerating the violence on television without taking any steps to assist at least the stranded West Coast commuters. NCN TV then reinforced racial insecurity by replaying ad nauseam scenes of the worst behaved afro-Guyanese elements baiting the Tactical Service Unit.
Guyanese are sick and tired of being carried to the brink of communal violence by politically-induced thuggery, the nicely-balanced slates of candidates disguising the racial culture of parties, sick and tired of the racist attitudes and conversations tolerated by leaders unwilling to put their ethnic support at risk. In our crudest of democratic arrangement, everyday politics is conducted in uncivil, adversarial language, with no regard for its impact on either decent, law-abiding citizens or on criminally-inclined elements, always ready to take advantage of disruption. Politicians tend not to see citizens, they see ‘black’ people and ‘Indian’ people, citizens literally don’t count.
This has been the reality for sixty years and there is no evidence to encourage the idea that it is about to change. It’s time we learnt one lesson, namely, we cannot rely on technical improvements alone. We thought free-and-fair elections was the light at the end of the tunnel but were quickly disillusioned. We then pinned our hopes on constitutional reform, to no avail. While we need these technical improvements, we cannot invest faith in them alone. Guyana needs a change of political morality as well – a politics of mutual confidence rather than politics driven by mistrust – along with the rehabilitation of values like responsibility, solidarity and self-discipline.
The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) takes this opportunity to remind the ruling party, that as in similar past crises, the GHRA is available to advise and support any victim who seeks our help. However, the most effective form of satisfaction of both victims and citizens, in general , would be for the Government to bring charges against at least some perpetrators of the assaults in Agricola.
Guyana Human Rights Association
October 19 2012