Four years after the deaths of three Lindeners, who were shot and killed during a protest action by the residents of the mining town on July 18, 2012, attorney Nigel Hughes has bemoaned the fact that nothing has been done to prevent a recurrence.
“There is nothing to stop a repeat of that event from taking place. Unless we take the lessons and put them into action, and restrain the police from ever again raising any weapon on an innocent citizen, we would have failed those three young men who gave their blood on July 18,” Hughes stressed on Monday, while addressing a large crowd that turned out at the Wismar-Mackenzie Bridge to commemorate the deaths of Shemroy Bouyea, Ron Somerset and Allan Lewis.
Also in attendance were Regional Chairman Renis Morian and his predecessor Sharma Solomon.
The three men and others who were shot had been protesting the former government’s then proposed hike in electricity rates.
Hughes, who had played a large part in helping victims to receive justice in the aftermath, pointed out that the people of Linden had demonstrated a spirit of independence to the extent that they did not take orders that came from outside of the community.
But the most important lesson of July 18, 2012, he said, is that never again must “we would allow the state to turn its guns on the innocent citizens of this country.”
Hughes, however, bemoaned the fact that the recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) that was conducted after the fatal shootings have not been acted upon.
The CoI found the police responsible for the deaths but said that in the circumstances, the discharge of ammunition was justified as the police were confronted by a hostile crowd and had no clear intention to kill or injure anyone.
In hopes of averting a recurrence, the CoI recommended that an audit team, comprising local, regional and Commonwealth experts, carry out a structural and functional review of the Guyana Police Force and recommend both short term measures and a longer term strategic development programme to increase police effectiveness and public reassurance.
Meanwhile, addressing the crowd on Monday, Solomon, who was the Regional Chairman during the protest action, reminded Lindeners that they should not only commemorate the dead but also spare a thought for persons like Ray Wills and Randy Telford, who were also shot and injured.
According to Solomon, after the events on the bridge, the people of Linden benefited based on the fact that to date the electricity rates have not been increased and the fact that as a people they got the attention from not only the government but from the rest of the world. He pointed out that the huge unemployment rate, lack of investment, and non-access to information in the township were some of the issues that residents protested at the time.
He went on to add that not only Region 10 benefited but Guyana benefited from the struggle.
“In the 2006 election, we got only 5,000 votes and in 2016 we got about 16,000 votes. That vast difference in numbers was as a result of that sacrifice and that grave injustice that was done to this community,” he said.
“As the engineer behind that effort, I can say condignly and conclusively it was that event in 2012 which led to the victory of the coalition that we have in government today,” he added.
Meanwhile, according to Morian, he still cannot wrap his mind around the fact that defenceless persons were shot.
“Just because Lindeners decide to stand up for something that was unjust, that would have trampled us further into poverty and hopelessness, many were shot. On this very spot was the place where we would have stopped and take our stand against a regime that felt that Region 10 was just another place to be trampled upon,” Morian stated.