When I saw the photograph of Akeem Charles, the GDF soldier lying on the concrete floor almost naked some weeks ago, Abu Ghraib immediately raced to my mind.
According to the report (SN) Charles had been subjected to beatings and endured inhumane conditions during a prolonged detention at Camp Ayanganna for going absent without leave – AWOL. Is this a one-off scenario or a regular occurrence – the norm? The report said the GDF has emphasised that “it does not condone any act of violence meted out to its ranks,” and efforts had been made to improve the conditions under which detainees are held. But we do not know for sure, since we don’t often hear reports of such, and most likely this photograph published by SN was sneaked out of Camp Ayanganna. But what made one ponder a bit on this matter is that Akeem Charles who sustained a back injury during training was allegedly denied medical assistance by the army because it lacked “the required funds to help,” hence he took his own leave to seek assistance and later turned himself in.
I think we all have to start looking at matters of this nature more keenly. There were stories reported not so long ago somewhat akin to that of this soldier that ought to be still full in our minds. A Stabroek News Dec 10 report was supported with a photograph of a 14-year-old boy hog-tied and lying on his stomach like an iguana in the tray of a police pick-up; the paper stated that the youngster and others were accused of stealing parts from a mechanical workshop/compound, I think. There was also the torture of a 13-year-old by police ranks in the lock-ups; his genitals were burnt. Then on July 5, 2012 the SN carried yet another report, again backed up with a picture on the front page of two escapees from Mazarani prison shortly after they were captured by the Joint Services. These two prisoners clad only in trousers with hands tied behind their backs, were lying on the ground back to back with heads resting on each other’s shoulder, surrounded by policemen with guns.
Editor, I’m quite sure as we know that there were other such scenes that occurred but which fortunately or unfortunately were not photographed or reported.
Is this the way we honestly intend to stem the cycle of violence stalking every quarter of our society? Don’t these despicable acts jolt our consciences? Whip up the ire in us to command our attention, so we loudly condemn? What of those within the higher echelons of society, the decent, the moralists? Understand that every voice of disapproval against any barbaric act reduces the playing field of the perpetrators and enhances our civilization.
It is so funny that we observe wrong things being done – even outrageously so – but take no particular notice of them, dismissing them as a once-in-a-while happening until they balloon into regular occurrences – out of control but normal. Let me make haste to repeat that I am no defender of criminals; I seriously believe that they should face the music by suffering the consequence of their actions. Which ought to be done in a civilized, right way.
I must repeat; we sign on to resolutions, declarations at conventions and conferences on the international stage as a matter of formality – not that we believe in them, but so as not to be left out, and just to give the impression to the world that we are keeping abreast.