July 16th, 1973 was one of the darkest days in the history of Guyana. It was the day when our democracy was raped; a day when Guyanese, in exercising their right to vote, and in protecting their votes from being stolen, witnessed yet another bloody day in our country. Young voters Jagan Ramessar and Bholanauth Parmanand were fatally shot, and dozens more were injured by the bullets from members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).
These two men were killed when hundreds gathered at the No 63 Primary School to ensure that their votes were counted at the place of Poll; that is, at the school where they voted. The army arrived at the close of poll, and the people, in protest, attempted to block the military from removing the ballot boxes from the place of counting at the polling station when bullets from the barrel of the soldier’s gun began to fly wildly into the crowd.
It was known locally and internationally that the PNC dictatorship were massively rigging elections from 1968 to 1992. Furthermore, state resources were abused, whereby the army was used to carry out these devious instructions from the despotic Burnham regime.
What history has taught Guyanese is that a country has never achieved real development under a Government that illegally entered office though fraudulent, violent, and lawless means. A good example would be the three years — from 2015 to 2018 — under the same PNC regime of the past, masquerading behind the mask of APNU/AFC Coalition, taking political power in questionable circumstances and failing and neglecting to adhere to the call to recount certain ballot boxes. This action has been three years before the courts, and is still awaiting a date for hearing — a total disregard for the constitution and the Rule of Law by delay, another means of denying democracy in our beloved land.
There has followed three years of constant economic and social decline. There seems to be no other way out but to crumble into an underdeveloped state. Where are the promised jobs for young people?
Heroes like Jagan Ramessar, Bholanauth Parmanand, Michael Forde, Dr. Walter Rodney, Father Darke, Kowsilla and others were killed in protecting their rights — by a twist from hope, to drive our brothers and sisters into fearing members of the PNC, and to stab democracy in the heart. These martyrs, by their sacrifice, helped shape our political struggle that led to free and fair elections in 1992.
Twenty-six years after, we will not allow their names and actions to be undermined and shunned away. In the 2015 General Elections, we witnessed a new form of dictatorship that spuriously appointed managerial roles in GECOM. There have been further instances, wherein SOCU has now become a political weapon used to embarrass members and supporters of the Peoples Progressive Part/Civic.
Have we returned to the dark and cruel days of Burnham? Would the 2020 elections be as haunting as the 1973 elections? Would the 2020 elections be epically rigged, like the 1985 elections? Should we deter into defeat, or should we pursue with a sure hope and with a strong leadership?
We honour the memories of these fallen heroes by exposing the wrongdoings of this Government. We honour them by being resilient through all the atrocities and injustices being thrown against us. The Guyanese people will continue to take the hard hits and keep getting up each time; and the more we get up, the stronger we will be. The fight will continue in our courts, in the halls of our parliament, and out there in our communities. This is how we honour our fallen heroes.