To stand with a bullhorn in defence of our collective civil liberties is noble

Dear Editor,

Regardless of which political party they choose to support, no citizen deserves to be executed while proclaiming and informing others of their right to have a say in determining the future of our nation. To stand with a bullhorn in defence of our collective civil liberties is noble and to do it alone demonstrates almost unimaginable commitment to the democratic principles and ideals which underpin our current thrust into the future. Society owes Courtney Crum-Ewing and those who have gone before, a debt none of us can ever repay, although we can try. Courtney Crum-Ewing was outspoken, an activist, a national athlete, a model student and a defender of our nation. Are these not the qualities we aspire to instil in each new generation of youth meant to drive us forward? We can try to repay that debt by living the dream Courtney died believing in. As a member and trustee of the Guyana National Youth Council these are some of my personal thoughts. I feel it pertinent to speak out about the escalating series of personal and public attacks aimed at targeting members of the GNYC. I seek assurances on behalf of the GNYC from all our political leaders that this is not the kind of future they intend to craft for the Guyana of tomorrow. No citizen young or young at heart deserves to be shot dead campaigning for the Guyana they believe in. We must remind ourselves everyone has a right to political affiliation no matter what party that affiliation is to.

It is disturbing to note that despite being non-partisan and partnering with Gecom to engage all youth on voter education without regard for party affiliation, the youth council has come under such vicious attack from a government which has come out many times to say it supports youth development and one which sent representation to the Council’s launch. Unlike the youth arms of political parties the GNYC as an organization has no political affiliation and members are free to support any party of their choice. Our agenda is youth focused and youth-driven and membership is sanctioned for attempting to bring a party agenda to the table. I contend that precisely because of the organization’s refusal to pick a side it is being seen as a soft target. I question the repeated move to publish not only the names but also the places of work of those involved in the council.

An Office of the President representative, a man convicted of assaults, was sent to disrupt a gathering of youth and not to assist in their empowerment of others. Why did the Ministry of Youth Culture and Sport support the launch of the GNYC only to condemn it around election time in a rising chorus of spontaneous criticism emanating from a single source, but seemingly disparate? Editor even after attacking the GNYC’s intended ‘Vote Like A Boss’ campaign it was shocking to then open Facebook to find that the hashtag for a non-partisan campaign which volunteer youth have poured hours into crafting has been appropriated by the critics of the council. While there is no licence on words, there is time, effort and intention to consider. I appeal to all parties contesting the upcoming election not to subvert the fundamental intention of a campaign aimed at educating youth about their right to vote with partisan overtones and associations. With far bigger budgets and paid staff I would hope all players refrain from using the council’s work for political mileage.

Youths gearing up to support the Guyana National Youth Council’s ‘Vote Like A Boss’ campaign are understandably nervous on hearing of the murder of Courtney Crum-Ewing while he too was encouraging others to vote. I am calling on the youth of Guyana to be fearless, because our voices matter, especially when it comes to matters of state. I long for a day when we as a nation are able to see our way past party politics, race, classism and discrimination and embrace Courtney’s vision of an equitable society that guarantees justice for all.

Someone pulled the trigger, someone drove the car, someone parked it and someone knows what secrets are yet to be revealed. My only wish is that someone comes forward that Courtney may in death have some of the justice he spent the last years of his life campaigning so fervently for. My deepest sympathies go out to his family and loved ones.

Yours faithfully,
Francis Bailey
Guyana National Youth Council

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