Protesting and picketing – then and now

  -Still coming: Inside this ministry

The Guyana Constitution, under the provisions which “guarantee” our Rights and Freedoms, permits, even protects citizens wishing to engage in peaceful public protests and demonstrations against the widest possible range of issues which those citizens deem unjust or somehow against personal, community, workplace or national well–being.

That long opening sentence seeks to contextulise the fundamental right of Guyanese to protest when they or their representative group, wish to publicise and mobilise against some wrong – current or potential, real or perceived.

Both a Senegalese pal and an aggressive print–media columnist have caused me to reflect on the use of this right recently.

My Senegalese friend would exhibit frequent bouts of exasperation at what he saw to be Guyanese docile acceptance of all types of wrongs – discrimination, corruption, disdain for collective bargaining, human rights violations, even indifference to national poverty.

Abdoul would rant at our Guyanese “meekness” and the seeming acceptance of abuse. Especially by the government. Since I would be his favourite target of urgings to either provoke action or explain, I penned a column which, in part, offered the view that today’s Guyanese (worker) protested by stealing, stealth and cheating at a wide variety of official assignments instructions or procedure.

Alas, I opined, when you combine Executive lawlessness and the workers’ new penchant for taking what is not theirs, the Guyana kleptocracy takes hold – at all levels.

The Columnist would also be extremely concerned, then absolutely irritated that too many in politics, Opposition, Civil Society or church take official abuses and other non–government violations lying down, passively – in cowardly silence. Hence my following observations.

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Protests: Types and “then”

This is merely to indicate the types of protest which can be mounted by citizens to demonstrate publicly, disapproval or outright rejection of some idea, decision, course of action or even a person or group. (Naturally there can be protests for something.)

Residents demonstrate with slogans, pickets, placards and chants when they want an overdue service, compensation or the removal or retention of someone. Similar exercises are mounted for issues of a political nature. Workers engage in sick–outs, sit–ins, go–slows, strikes and lock–downs to enforce demands. Boycotts of agencies or events also indicate displeasure. Marches and vigils dramatise discontent.

The Mahatma, Gandhi, perfected mass non–violent civil disobedience against India’s British colonisers. That technique caught on everywhere when protesters/organisers wished to avoid violence, bloodshed or death.

To personalise this piece a bit I recount my experiences from the early sixties up to say early eighties.

(National organized protests flared up also when Janet Jagan because President in ’97. Most were somewhat intimidatory, even violently vicious.)

During the anti–Jagan protests of the early sixties – resulting in “the arson of the capital”, February 1962 – from my little old cottage in Alberttown, Georgetown, I saw Justice Morris isolated in his own home surrounded by hymn–singing demonstrators. Police had to shepherd him to “work”.

Protest rallies, mass meetings and even attacks on ministries escalated into the racist oriented shootings and bombings of a murderous, political–activism era. During nearly 30 years of successive PNC administrations political demonstrations of all types were normal features. Even allegations of burning of cane fields by PPP supporters were made.

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Protest fatigue, protest resumption

I won’t dwell on the political protests for 1997–1998, which attracted violence and police responses. (But I did mischievously call on Party Leader Desmond Hoyte to protest against and picket former American President Jimmy Carter in February 1994 when PNC activists demonstrated against Jimmy Carter. Hoyte had invited Carter here in 1992!)

So is there really, protest–fatigue amongst those wronged these days? Are Guyanese finding alternative methods to respond to the injustices they claim? Stealing and sabotage are criminal but, frankly speaking that seems, to me, to be a new form of protest.

Personally, had I the physical strength I would mount or join protests. From individual and specific injustice to larger violations against the populace. Why don’t 500 Lindeners mount protests around O.P. weekly to protest the inaction over the agreements? The Station Street Lady who was burnt with acid but no police intervention; Investigations/Court Cases with respect to two Indo–Guyanese young ladies murdered years ago; the Georgetown Town Clerk/Town Clown nonsense; hospital mis–adventures – all these issues cry out for peaceful, but sustained public outcry. I commend those who keep trying.

(Oh! There must be strategies to preempt and prevent paid infiltrators sent to sully the rights of peaceful demonstrators.)

The Ministry for our Culture, Youth, Sport

It’s just six months since I left the employ of our Ministry responsible for our cultural heritage, our young Guyanese and national sport development.

Since I retain some old–fashioned ethics, but can still utilise my right to exchange ideas, I will invite that Ministry’s new Public Relations Officer to either explain or preempt my coming fuller enquiries and or “disclosures”.

They include: what’s taking published sport and youth policies so long? How or why do certain contractors produce shoddy work for the Sport Ministry? The Director of Culture, Dr. J. Rose, has a fine Culture Policy but why does he not ever pronounce on matters of a cultural nature which attract contention? (Only the poor Minister faces down the Afro–specific groups.). Were not good recommendations to improve the NOC ignored? Who really administers Sporting Development? How?

That’s just a sample of things to come. I know that the new young P.R. spokesperson must be briefed. Love.

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Imagine

Add up all the loans and grants given to this government over the past year. Quantify then find out how they’ve been utilised. A role for civil society? Besides the Official Auditors?

Romain Khan’s analysis after the Nigam Concert must attract greater responses.

How can we make Victoria’s Anniversary momentous? And Lasting? The Village I mean.

Til next week!

(Comments? allanafenty@yahoo.com)

 

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