January 30, 2009 marks the third year since the brutal assassination of comrade and brother, Ronald Waddell. To date, no one has been arrested for this heinous crime although Waddell’s execution was carried out by known criminals.
Mr Waddell was an unrelenting critic of the ruling party primarily because of the unwanted execution of young African men by the dreaded Black Clothes police and subsequently, by the phantom killers who were in the pay of drug cartels.
A factor that led to Waddell’s execution was his commitment to the cause of the poor and powerless and his involvement in the fight for justice on their behalf. He was a devoted political activist, journalist, talk show host, Rastafarian and a law graduate.
His passing has left deep wounds in the African community and more so, among the African poor for whom he was a major spokesperson. Many have asked whether his death and those countless others who made the ultimate sacrifice in the struggle, has been a waste of precious lives. This is an important and legitimate question not only for the African Guyanese community but for the entire nation to ponder upon as we observe this third anniversary of his assassination.
I will not offer here a conclusive position on this important issue. However, I believe that there have been significant gains in the struggle, and the lives of militants
In the years ahead there will be a greater appreciation of the efforts of Waddell and other fallen comrades; their roles will be better understood when a more objective assessment is made of what has been and still is the most dreadful period in this country’s history. I say without fear of contradiction that the work of Ronald Waddell in his efforts to bring a halt to the unwanted killing of young African males and the sacrifices made by the armed militants to end this situation, has resulted in a reduction of extra-judicial executions of African youths by the police and the narco-financed Phantom killers.
An important aspect of Mr Waddell’s political conviction was his unwavering support for shared governance as a just way of dealing with the country’s political and ethnic crisis.
There were many who misunderstood his message and there were some, who despite overwhelming contradictory evidence, subscribed to the propaganda of the rulers and accused him of racism and of encouraging violence.
Mr Waddell was, if nothing else, a true Guyanese patriot who accepted his African ancestry with dignity and pride, and he never failed to publicly declare and defend his principles. He also held firmly to the view that activists and organizations of all other racial groups were entitled to the same declarations and defence of their beliefs.
Violence for Waddell was the last resort, and it had to be in self defence or intended to end the vicious criminal abuse by those with power. A just political solution was the cornerstone of his activism.
We in Guyana are yet to achieve this noble goal. In this sense his work and struggle have not been realized, and in this respect the nation is presently at a historical turning point.
We must either resolve the decades of political conflict or run the risk of the further destruction of the political culture and moral fabric of the nation. Waddell had predicted that at the end of the day the country would be divided between those for and against a just political solution for Guyana. As a Rastafarian elder guided by the Rasta philosophy he strongly believed that all humans are the creation of JAH, regardless of race, colour or creed, and that economic, social and political justice must be the right of all Guyanese.
It is more than significant that his prophecy − that the nation finally would be divided on those for a just solution and those against − is today unfolding before our very eyes while the jury is still out on this matter.
My personal conviction is that the African Guyanese leadership − political and otherwise − has to be careful that it does not squander the sacrifices of our distinguished sons and daughters, including our militants. We must avoid repeating past mistakes of putting our faith in the Westminster type elections and instead, intensify our efforts to mobilise to struggle for constitutional reform to bring about executive power sharing/shared governance before the 2011 general elections.
A victory on this matter will be in the best interest of not only the Guyanese community, but for all of us in the African community. There is therefore an urgent need for rethinking and re-strategizing on the way forward by leaders of the African community. Two important weaknesses or shortcomings in the last phase of the struggle were the failure of militants to win the support of important organizations in the African community, and their failure to explain to the nation, to the region and to the world their justification for the course of action they had embarked on. Armed action became isolated from political action, thereby allowing the rulers to rally important sections of the nation behind them, which would have been much more difficult if leading organizations and individuals in the African community had demonstrated the capacity, will and courage to stand up and rebuff the government’s crime theory.
While we cannot remake the past we could learn important lessons and chart a future guided by our past experiences.
It is now time for the African community and its leadership to end its infighting and concentrate on the challenges facing the community and the nation. The most important of the challenges lies in the struggle to bring about a renovation of the political system based on shared governance. While there is some merit in the pursuit of internal struggle, those efforts very often result in the consumption of energies at the expense of fighting oppressive rulers and become counter productive.
In remembering our fallen Comrade and Brother Ronald Waddell, we must pledge ourselves to defeat the rulers in their efforts at total domination of our people and country, and we must be prepared to wage a principled and uncompromising struggle for political change.
Long live Ronald Waddell!
His life remains an inspiration to both militants and masses in the African community.