This letter is not intended to question the right of sugar workers to engage in street protests whenever they feel the situation demands that line of action. In fact, if truth be known, I, over the period of my lengthy political activism, have recognized, applauded and defended their right to protest action and will continue to do so.
My intention here, however, is to draw the public’s attention to the fact that since the APNU+AFC government came to office the nation has witnessed a number of street protest actions by supporters of the PPP/C, the most recent being GAWU’s ongoing protests against government’s decision to privatize the non-profitable Skeldon sugar estate in Berbice. To date, there has been no public outcry from any section of society against these protests.
The absence of any expression of concern on the conduct of the protests is instructive. When one compares the sound of silence from those who were offended when the APNU supporters took to the streets to protest against actions of the then government, when one recalls that the newspapers, the electronic media, private sector organisations and certain well-known individuals in the society, were hysterical in their condemnation of the actions of these persons and pointed to what they referred to as the destabilization of the economy and country while raising the spectre of violence in the society, one is amazed but not unduly surprised at the level of their acceptance of what is taking place.
Today, those prophets of doom who condemned the APNU supporters even as they peacefully protested, have not seen it fit to raise a single note of concern as the PPP organizes the protests which are now taking place. In reflecting on this issue I feel emboldened to say that there seems to have evolved in Guyana two standards of what can be referred to as acceptable behaviour – one for APNU African supporters and another for the PPP/C Indian supporters.
As an activist in the African community I have had cause on numerous occasions to pen letters in support of the rights of African Guyanese to engage in street protests when the occasion demands it. I have done so in the face of hostile criticisms by high and low officials in the PPP/C party and government, their propaganda letter writers and the numerous Indian rights activists.
I had made the point very often in those days when the debate on street protests raged, that very often the character of street protest is determined by the actions of the rulers and the police. My detractors rather than being objective, resorted to propagandizing to score cheap political points and to reinforce the historical political conditioning of a section of the community Africans in general and the PNCR in particular, are violent.
Today, with a change of government, we see a change in policy. The new rulers have not been criminalizing Indian street protests for political gain or for any reason as was done by the former regime when African protest actions were taking place. There is no politically directed police aggression against the sugar workers or any section of the support base of the PPP/C that chooses to take to the streets. This is how it must be in our democracy.
On this and other issues of governance the APNU+AFC government are light years from the PPP/C regime.