Social ills festering

The aftermath of the observance of Mother’s Day this year has been both bloody and horrific. The interpersonal violence that left four people dead in separate incidents, untold grief and families torn asunder speaks to a festering of social ills. The epidemic that is domestic violence is often compounded by the illness of alcoholism as was the case in three of these tragedies.

On Sunday, Kawal Persaud, a labourer was stabbed to death at Timehri allegedly by his friend during an argument that got physical as they were imbibing alcohol at a party. The friend, Lakeram Shankar, a security guard, was taken into custody and is likely to be charged with murder.

In the wee hours of Monday morning, a painter of Bloomfield, Corentyne, Berbice, Narine ‘Naipaul’ Sewnauth, was stabbed to death in his home, reportedly by a member of his household, Bisram Ramsamug, following a row over music. Another resident of the home had told this newspaper that the men had been having a drink, “celebrating Mother’s Day,” when they began quarrelling over music and subsequently came to blows. It was after the fist fight that a cutlass entered the fray and the result was one man dead and the other in police custody. Another murder charge looms.

Later on Monday, a Rose Hall Town, Corentyne, Berbice mother of seven, Bhagmati Etwaru, was murdered by her reputed husband following a brutal beating at his hands and the consumption of alcohol by both parties. They had been together for eight years and from what was reported by neighbours and friends, those years were tainted with alcoholism and the scourge of physical abuse. One person said the reputed husband, Desmond Gordon, was on a one-year bond. This might have been related to the many reports of domestic violence (DV) that had been made against him over the years. If this was indeed the case, it shows the futility in placing domestic violence offenders, particularly repeat offenders on bonds to keep the peace. Men who constantly and consistently batter women tend to view the women as their property to do with as they wish. Words said to them by a magistrate will make no difference; custodial sentences might and these should be imposed whether or not the complainant seems inclined to change her mind about giving evidence.

Much more worrying in this instance, is the response reportedly given by the police at the Rose Hall Outpost when they were called while Etwaru was being beaten by Gordon. The police allegedly said that it was a “husband and wife” story and chose not to respond to the report.

That such a response could be attributed to the police in 2016 is particularly vexing and one would hope that the hierarchy of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) is investigating the report. The GPF has always staunchly claimed that its officers are trained to deal with DV and that they know the procedures to adopt. In this case, the officer/s in question either did not know or chose to disregard same. This should be dealt with in such a way that it never happens again.

The person making the allegation and the report also surmised that the police were “fed up,” because numerous reports had been made against Gordon, but Etwaru always “went back home.” The friend felt too, that had the police responded when first called, Etwaru’s life might have been saved. There is nothing that can excuse the inaction of the police in this case. Their mandate is law and order and therefore every report that involves a crime being committed should receive the same response.

On Tuesday morning, 71-year-old Serojanie ‘Golin’ Ramkarran was found dead in her home at Zeelugt, East Bank Essequibo. It is alleged that she had been severely beaten by her 75-year-old husband, Ramkarran, the previous night and had succumbed to the injuries sustained therefrom. Again, the underlying theme was the consumption of alcohol. Neighbours were used to seeing the Ramkarrans drinking together or with others and they were also used to seeing the now dead woman being physically abused by her husband. They spoke of the police being involved on one occasion, but it appeared that no charges were ever instituted.

The pervasiveness of alcohol abuse notwithstanding, whatever happened to zero tolerance for domestic violence? How many more women must die before the police and other authorities really take this in hand? And where is Minister Volda Lawrence and the Ministry of Social Protection in all this? Where are the policies and programmes to protect women and prevent domestic violence? Because the time for talking is over. There is nothing new to add to the discourse. It is time for action.

 

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