The Oxford Dictionary defines a martyr as (a) a person who is put to death for refusing to renounce a faith or belief (b) a person who suffers for adhering to a principle or belief. Jan Hus (1369-1415), Joan of Arc (1412-1431), and lest we forget, Saint Stephen (d c AD 36, Jerusalem) Acts 6 and 7, are examples of Martyrs, and martyrdom.
It is unlikely that our politically designated “martyrs,” can stand scrutiny to be placed in the abovementioned category. It is not my intention to change the entrenched belief held by the two major political parties, on the validity of the application of the term ‘martyr,’ to their supporters, who died during a political protest or otherwise.
The in thing nowadays is to build monuments to those whom it is believed suffered ‘martyrdom’ ‒ the Son Chapman passengers. Ballot Box protestors, Linden protestors, you name it, monuments will be built.
The speeches and publications commemorating the events, divide, rather than heal. I wish to congratulate Mr Aubrey Norton, whose speech at Linden recently, did not conform to the usual venom, which is used at such events.
At the risk of being sent to Coventry, by my ‘friends,’ I wish to allude to two events. Firstly, the main speech at the wreath-laying ceremony for the Son Chapman victims, was an example of a speech gone wrong. Secondly, the article in Sunday Chronicle’s ‘Pepperpot,’ dated July, 14, 2013, commemorating those who died on July 18th, 1973, protesting the removal of the ballot boxes, was bad , and should have been edited, before publication. The article was racist, and politically biased. There is no attempt at healing or forgiveness therein.
In the author’s attempt to sensationalize a rather unfortunate event of forty years ago, he has resorted to the twisting of facts. Let us look briefly at some of his assertions:
a) A battalion was deployed from the Guyana Defence Force, under Captain Johnson (false).
Captain R Johnson, was actually in command of an infantry company.
b) Jagan Ramessar was shot and seriously wounded, and the army officers threw him into their vehicle.
Mr Ramessar was never thrown into any army vehicle. He was placed in a lying position in a Land Rover and later transferred to a larger vehicle.
Note: The army erred in not taking him immediately to the nearest medical institution for treatment.
c) He (Jagan Ramessar) was purposely displayed in this manner to send a signal to the people of Berbice.
Note: The Oxford Concise Dictionary defines display as (1) expose to view, exhibit (2) show ostentatiously.
Request: Can the author, state when and where Mr Ramessar’s, “body” was displayed or desecrated?
d) Henry took along with him, ten smoke grenades, respirators, steel hemlets, two submachine guns, rifles and bayonets.
Note: Each member of the Force on IS operations, would have with him a hemlet, a bush hat, a rifle and bayonet, tear smoke grenades (designated soldiers only). The SMGs, would normally be carried by the officer and a corporal. Army SOPs for IS operations details dres and equipment. Lt Henry’s unit conformed to the SOPs.
I do hope that the aforementioned would have at least cleared some of the misconceptions the author unconsciously presented to the Guyanese people.
Finally it is time to stop using our ethnic tragedies, to divide our nation. Would it not be an example to our bation, to have at these commemorative activities, representatives from each political party?
CS Vaughn, Major (rtd)