The right to protest against a government or its officials is fundamental to the survival of democracy in any country. It’s the people who’ve selected the government and they remain the repository of the inalienable sovereignty over the workings of the state. And if at any time they feel the government is acting against their interest, they have the right to make this directly known to their officials through, among other actions, protests.
This right is enshrined in Article 40 of our Constitution, which guarantees the “freedom of expression, association and assembly”. Now of course there are limitations of this right – as there are with any other right- but these limitations must be necessary and proportionate. And this brings us to the massive use of the police force by Granger to stifle protests against his traducing of the constitution as he continues as a “President in limbo”. “Limbo” of course, is that place of suspended animation the dead inhabit before being consigned to hell!!
Now, protests aren’t anything new in Guyana…much less Guyanese politics. Our tradition of protests harks back to the days of slavery and indentureship. But it led to the “leaden argument” of the colonial state which led to dozens of innocent lives snuffed out by the police. By Independence, the rules of engagement were worked out through a modus vivendi where were promised all of that was behind us and all that. Massa had gone and Massa day was done, we were told!!
But Burnham had other ideas. As he constructed his dictatorship, brick by brick, one of the biggest brick was his crackdown on protests. He deployed the police against protestors, as in the colonial days of yore but added a new element – armed thugs like the one who stabbed Father Darke to death on Brickdam. By the time he croaked, Guyana was a certified “police state”. The police had gravitated from arresting citizens for protesting in the streets, to arresting them in their beds when they were merely SUSPECTED of thinking about protesting!!
Something obviously snapped in Granger’s head after that Pegasus protest . Incredibly, he must’ve started to believe his own BS and figured he was “beloved” by the populace. That the protest was from a group inside the very proper black-tie occasion hit him so hard, he had to strike that uncharacteristically insouciant pose!! But it was like a fella petrified with fear, whistling in the dark. And he remembered Burnham.
So the half-mile of barricades and 150 cops to push back villagers into drains for protesting his address to schoolchildren is only the beginning.
Expect the goon squad to soon break some knees!! The jackboots are next!!