The murder of activist Courtney Crum-Ewing has undermined Guyana’s democracy contributing to a cycle of fear and President Donald Ramotar’s attempt to liken him to a criminal is ill-advised, the Guyana Bar Association and Justice Institute Guyana said today as they urged that the killers be brought to justice.
In a statement, the two organisations condemned “without reservation” the gunning down of Crum-Ewing and offered their sympathy to his family. “The right to life is the most fundamental right of all. We condemn without reservation any killing of one human being by another,” the statement said. The organisations noted that Crum-Ewing protested outside the chambers of Attorney-General Anil Nandlall for several weeks.
“He was out on the streets urging people to vote in the upcoming elections when he was shot five times. The prevalent and likely suspicion is that Mr Crum-Ewing was murdered because of his political activism. Any such suspicion, whether founded on fact or not, contributes to a cycle of fear. That fear encourages many people to be silent and invisible, and it gravely undermines freedom and democracy,” the organisations asserted.
The statement noted that Ramotar has compared the draping of the Golden Arrowhead on Crum-Ewing’s coffin with the draping of the Golden Arrowhead on the coffin of Blackie – a notorious criminal.
“Mr Crum Ewing’s protest and his call to voters were certainly not criminal activities. The President’s comment was ill-advised and unfortunate,” the organisations declared.
The statement noted too that Ramotar has described Crum-Ewing as a “nuisance” not a threat. “Freedom of expression is often a nuisance for politicians – indeed that is the objective of any political protest. But to protest is a right which defines a democracy. In Guyana the freedom to hold and express political opinions is a fundamental human right guaranteed by our Constitution. So if Crum-Ewing was a nuisance, his objective was achieved; his protest was a success at least to that extent,” the organisations declared.
They said that Guyanese must be able to disagree with one another in a respectful and dignified way. “We will never be able to regard ourselves as a civilised nation while there are elements in society who seek to silence the voices of others by bloody and unlawful means. What the President ought to have addressed was the undermining of our democracy by the murder of a lawful protester exercising his fundamental and constitutional right. The President ought to have addressed the erosion of our democracy by the political culture of threatening language and aggressive posturing which inculcate intolerant attitudes and give rise to fear,” the statement charged.
The organisations called on the police to step up their investigations and ensure that the killers are arrested, tried and sentenced according to the due process of law.
“As Guyana moves towards national elections we wish to point out that the exchange of views is what brings us closer to the truth. The Guyana Bar Association and the Justice Institute Guyana therefore call on the government to ensure that every citizen is free to express his or her political views without fear. We urge all those involved in the election campaign to use their platforms to promote peace, unity and respect for the rule of law. There is still much that Guyana needs to do to entrench democracy and freedom,” the statement said.
The murder of the activist has been condemned by members of society and international rights organisation Amnesty International had begun a campaign to pressure government to carry out a thorough, independent investigation into the killing and bring those responsible to justice.
“The killing of a political activist in Guyana during the pre-electoral period fuels fear that further violence and limitations to freedom of expression may occur,” the non-governmental organisation had said in a statement.
Over two weeks after the March 10th murder, several leads have yielded nothing of substance for investigators who are under pressure to produce results.
The slain man’s mother, Donna Harcourt, has expressed fear of a “cover-up,” saying that police are not treating the death threat reports made by her son against two prominent members of government when he was alive seriously. The threats are linked to his protest outside of the Attorney General’s chambers.