By Alva Solomon and Abigail Semple
Leaders of APNU’s youth arm, the Youth Coalition for Transformation (YCT), last evening called on the populace to boycott businesses “in bed” with the current administration, after hundreds of supporters staged a peaceful march through the city.
At the Stabroek Market Square last evening, speakers including YCT leader James Bond, who was on the receiving end of multiple rubber bullets during a truncated protest march on Tuesday, told a gathering that citizens needed to recognize their importance in society and the effect their actions can have on the business community.
“After this the tempo will be upped, no more Hits and Jams… after this no more Kashif and Shanghai,” Bond said, while charging that the football tournament organiser Kashif Muhammad had proudly shared his preference for the PPP/C at the just concluded general elections. Hits and Jams, meanwhile, has also been closely linked with the PPP/C government.
Bond said that Region 10, which hosts matches for the annual football tournament, has suffered at the hands of the government via a lack of jobs, proper education facilities and security, among other things.
He said that the geographical locations do not separate Guyanese and he called on the population to support the cause of the youth arm, while noting that the large crowd which showed up at the meeting last evening was testimony that “all Guyanese are in this movement of a just cause.”
Adel Lilee, an East Coast youth supporter, told the gathering that the spirits of the supporters of the APNU, and the youths in particular, are not broken given the elections results announced by the Guyana Elections Com-mission (Gecom). Lilee said that there is a call from the major support base of Hits and Jams and Kashif Mohammed for the organisations to be shunned since they “have joined with the PPP” to oppress the people.
Lilee said that the two businesses have been playing a political game for years, noting that the tournament has started in Linden for community development but according to him, it is now being used as political tool by the PPP/C.
APNU activist Lurlene Nestor was vocal in her call on supporters of the APNU to “band your belly this Christmas,” while noting that the movement was sending a strong message to the business community. She said that there have been calls by the Private Sector Commis-sion for the APNU to “allow them to continue profiting off of you” but she noted that many should be able to make sacrifices this Christmas in solidarity with the APNU as supporters chanted words of approval.
Nestor noted that she has seen the struggles and desires of the supporters of the party, particularly the youths in the years gone by and according to her, on Election Day she was heartened at the number of young voters who cast their ballots. She said that it is against this backdrop that she understood the disappointments being felt by many young people after the results of the elections were an-nounced.
Meantime, APNU prime ministerial candidate in the recent elections, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine noted that the APNU is forging ahead with the verification of the statements of poll (SOP) which the coalition has received from GECOM. He said that APNU remains unhappy with the format in which the SOPs were delivered and said the coalition will not rest until we see the actual copies of the statements of poll. The current verification process undertaken by the APNU will be completed sometime next week, he added.
Roopnaraine also said that the APNU has scored a number of victories following the recent elections. He said that the opposition is positioned perfectly to chart the country’s future with the majority APNU and AFC have in parliament. He said a “great victory” has been that the state-owned National Communi-cations Network (NCN) has been airing APNU programmes on the only television station in Linden. He said that the address to the nation by APNU chairman Granger had been rebroadcasted recently in the mining town.
He said that the NCN’s management should recognise that the television station belongs to the nation and should not be operated in the interest of the PPP regime. In this regard, he said that the APNU is willing to ‘place a thousand of our supporters outside NCN “if the state-owned television station does not operate impartially.”
Dr Roopnaraine also called on the youths of the party to continue their campaigns and meetings to keep the government on its toes. He said that while the opposition is in the National Assembly utilising its position having the majority in the House, the supporters “must stand out here and support us from the outside.”
APNU chairman David Granger, in brief remarks, called on the supporters and young activists of APNU to press on with their energies for justice and equality. He said that the coalition remains disappointed in the police actions on Tuesday, when ranks opened fire using rubber pellets on its supporters during a protest march in the Hadfield Street area.
He said that APNU will notify the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the United Nations of the actions taken by the police, while adding that while no one is accepting blame for the police’s actions.
‘No justice, no peace’
Three days after an attempt to stage a march ended with police firing rubber bullets to disperse participants who had not gotten approval, a large contingent, comprising young and old, moved through the city from the Square of the Revolution to the Stabroek Market Square without incident.
“No justice, no peace,” shouted the crowd, which grew as it was joined by onlookers, residents and passersby, and even some school children as they made their way home from school.
Having finally received permission from the police to conduct the peaceful march, the procession moved off from their Square of the Revolution starting point a little after 3pm, led by a group of persons riding bicycles and motorcycles loudly honking their horns. As they made their way down Vlissengen, through Lamaha Street, different sections of the crowd were heard echoing and responding to their respective leaders.
In one section, led by a minibus equipped with an amplifier, in which former PNCR-1G Member of Parliament Joan Baveghems was a passenger, the crowd was heard chanting their determination to boycott Kashif and Shanghai football tournament and the Hits and Jams promoters over their alleged ties the party in government. “No Kashif, no Shanghai!” they chanted and “Who we boycottin’? Hits and Jams!”
There were also shouts of “we must have justice,” “rain or shine we ain’t giving up,” “bullet or pain we not giving up,” along with chants that “Surujbally and Gocool Boodoo must go,” in reference to the GECOM Chairman and Chief Election Officer, respectively.
As the crowd neared Main Street and the GECOM offices, the chanting was focused solely on Surujbally and vote related issues. When they arrived in the vicinity of the barricades near GECOM, the procession converged for approximately fifteen minutes shouting their dissatisfaction with the results of the Commission’s vote count. The crowd then continued down Main Street, where they were joined by Roopnaraine, before moving up Republic Avenue on the way to the Stabroek Square.
This newspaper was able to speak with a few of the participants in the protests, many of whom were resolved to take to the streets every day until they see a change in governance.
Speaking with Stabroek News after the march, Roopnaraine stated that the people intend to stay on the streets to get what they want, and will continue to do so even after Parliament has been convened, “because we believe that keeping in the streets will keep the party with the parliamentary majority in check.”