Monday’s news headlines revealed stark differences between the main Presidential Candidates for the upcoming elections. One newspaper headline showed one candidate without security, embracing his people, showing them he cared. The same headline showed the other candidate violating citizens’ right to peacefully protest, separated from the citizens by Police barricades manned by heavily-armed Police, as if they were in military battle. One was embraced by citizens; the other was protested and unwelcome.
There was the moving picture of the PPP’s Irfaan Ali on Sunday meeting with grieving families on the Corentyne, no security, just him consoling the families. The humble Ali did not separate himself from ordinary citizens by hiding behind heavily armed security. He was as ordinary as the people he was visiting, was one of them. In contrast, there was an “unbothered” David Granger that same Sunday, majestically driving past peaceful protestors, with a large convoy of expensive vehicles, some with heavily-armed security officers, and in the background more than 150 Police officers ensuring peaceful protestors stay far behind Police barricades. Granger, as he has been doing every time he leaves his home, feels he must hide behind well-armed security. He came into Cornelia Ida as their lord and master, King of his Fiefdom, and ordinary citizens had to be kept far away.
Irfaan Ali on Sunday did what PPP leaders have been doing for decades, affirming his duty to travel to the Corentyne, showing care and support for the families of fishermen whose bodies floated ashore or who are still missing, presumed dead, after another horrendous pirate attack at sea. He went there with PPP activists to console and let the families know they were not alone as they endured unspeakable agony. Irfaan Ali, during his visit to the grieving families, called on the various government agencies to help these families. At a time when these families need support, the whole Government machinery is shamelessly missing in action. The do-nothing Government always seems two steps behind, always having to be shamed into action. Hopefully, after the pleas for help by the families themselves and by Irfaan Ali on behalf of the families, the relevant authorities will show up.
But Granger, in his latest version of “unbothered”, couldn’t care less. It is uncertain he even knows that another pirate attack has murdered innocent, poor Guyanese citizens. He never seems to have a word of empathy for those who endure unspeakable agony. He always seems to be running as far away from those who are enduring tragedies. Even as news of the pirate attack was emerging last week and, even as the bodies began to float ashore last Saturday and into Sunday, Granger was too busy ordering the Police to quash any protest against him. He wanted the whole village of CI to be locked down. With all his might, Granger feared ordinary peaceful citizens.
He feared black flags posted up on GPL posts by residents, ordering Police to destroy them. The black flags protested the violation of the Constitution and the assault on democracy. The residents, almost 100% of them, wanted Granger to know he was not welcomed in their community. But they projected their message peacefully. Yet, Granger sent more than 150 heavily-armed Police to keep people far from him. The Police established their perimeter, letting the peaceful protestors know where they can gather and picket. As Granger arrived, the Police pushed peaceful people further away from his sight and, in the process, moved barricades so forcefully several residents were injured. The Police even locked up two of the residents because they deemed them ring leaders. The people’s right to peacefully picket was violated because a dictator feared the peaceful voice of ordinary people.
Meanwhile, Mr Ramjattan, who was the Minister of Public Security, has said not a word. He was on TV last Saturday in Berbice, he had nothing to say about the latest pirate attacks. He stands by idly as Granger uses the Police as his private security firm, removing them from their main duty – to keep citizens safe. In the last week, twelve murders and dozens of armed robberies have occurred, but the police are busy intimidating peaceful picketers. Even as the Police’s main duty now becomes stopping peaceful protests and Ramjattan disgracing himself with claims that crime is on the decrease, crime is spiralling out of control.
Noel Holder, the former Minister of Agriculture, with direct responsibility for fisher-folks, was nowhere and is still nowhere to be found. No one should hold their breath, he is doing what he is best at – missing in action. But the biggest disgrace belongs to Moses Nagamootoo. The dead and missing fishermen belong to communities he claims he is a “son of the soil”. He will soon go there to beg the people for their votes. But as the families and their neighbours grieve, Moses is totally silent. What Port Mourant and CI demonstrated on Sunday was simple – people have a choice between a humble, caring young man and an aloof, unbothered, uncaring dictator.