By A.T. Freeman
When the arsonist returns to the scene of the crime dressed as a firefighter
On 9 September, Irfaan Ali, the president of Guyana issued a statement that he would be making a request to Britain and the US-organised Regional Security System (RSS) to support the Guyana Police Force, establishing an international Commission of Inquiry to look into the recent killings and disturbances in the country and be approaching the United Nations to explore “all systems and protocols available within the United Nations system itself to deal with persons who spread hate and racial strife in speech and in action”.
The president’s statement came in response to a number of killings and protests that have gripped the country in the last few days. On Sunday 6 September, it was reported that 2 Guyanese teenagers of African descent, Isaiah Henry, 16 years old, and his cousin Joel Henry, 19 years old, had been killed in a racist attack and their bodies mutilated. As news of the killings spread, protests erupted, including the blocking of roads. Since Sunday 6 September, there have been 2 further killings related to the unrest. On 9 September, 17-year-old Haresh Singh, a Guyanese of Indian descent was found beaten unconscious in a field and died on his way to the hospital. It is reported that Haresh’s grandfather and two of his uncles had been previously arrested in connection with the murder of Isaiah and Joel Henry. On the same day, it was further reported that 34-year-old Chatterpaul Harripaul, another Guyanese of Indian descent was beaten to death when he confronted protesters with a shotgun and fired at them.
The current crisis in Guyana, which presents a real danger that the working people of African and Indian origin will be dragged into shedding each other’s blood, has its roots in the 1953 Anglo-American overthrow of the first government in that country elected on the basis of universal suffrage.
In the struggle for independence, the Guyanese people, whether of African or Indian descent, were united in their demand for an end to colonialism. It was this unity that the Anglo-Americans targeted in their occupation of the country from 1953 -1957. Basing themselves on their long history of implementing a colonial divide and rule policy, they set up a communal system in which the anti-colonial movement was split along ‘racial’ lines with the PPP being seen as the political organisation of the Guyanese of Indian descent and the PNC as the party of the Guyanese of African descent.
This communal division has been maintained and entrenched throughout the entire independence period. It is marked by racist and divisive activities of the main cartel parties of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the People’s National Congress (PNC) and was particularly evident in the recent elections. Each party sees benefit in it, since it provides them with an assured bank of votes that can pave their way to power in the conditions of the undemocratic system of ‘representative democracy’.
The people of Guyana cannot put their faith in those who set the country on fire in 1953 nor those who have been fanning the flames ever since for their own benefit. They need to rediscover the unity that served them so well in the anti-colonial struggle and use it to plot an escape from the division, killing and insecurity generated by the communalism and racism that currently plague them.