On Easter Sunday, Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, was rocked by multiple bombings on churches and hotels that resulted in, up to press time, the deaths of some 321 persons with hundreds of others injured. Many were killed as they worshipped on Christianity’s holiest of days – the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From all appearances, the bombings were carried out with precision and were well-coordinated.
The shock of this horrific incident swiftly resonated beyond that country’s borders as the world watches on in the aftermath, searching for answers. This follows just over a month ago the shootings in New Zealand, where a gunman opened fire in two mosques killing 50 worshippers during their sacred Friday prayers. Like Sri Lanka, that was felt across the world as the lives of innocent beings were made valueless as in the case on October 27, 2018, when 11 persons from the Jewish community were killed while in worship at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
There were many such incidents over time in various parts of the world. Seventeen students killed at the Majority Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, on February 14, 2018. In that same state, 49 were killed inside a gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016. Fifty-eight concertgoers were killed in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017. Twenty were killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 and 77 killed in Norway on July 22, 2011.
In addition, there were many fatalities resulting from shootings at various work sites in some countries and vehicles deliberately crashed into crowds with the intent of maximising casualties. Clearly, from these incidents persons were not safe whether they were at a holy place of worship, school, at work, at an entertainment spot or taking a stroll on the street. In every instance, each would have believed that their safety was not an issue.
These acts of terrorism continue to ask the question; where are people really safe? Those places are generally expected to be – not the least, at home. Sadly, there is no guarantee even in the latter. Take for instance here in Guyana, with its share of acts of terrorism as seen in the Lusignan, Bartica and Lindo Creek Massacres, crime continues seemingly unabated as every day the news is inundated with stories of unsuspecting persons being robbed, beaten and some killed in what is supposed to be the safety of their homes.
Last week, the Government embarked on a Cabinet outreach in Berbice. Ministers with their entourage were there, as was the requisite security for such an undertaking. From what has been reported, it appears that the presence of the increased security did not deter criminals who went about their task seemingly without bother. As a result, some residents, including the elderly, were robbed and beaten. This is not confined to Berbice, but prevalent across the country.
Sunday last, a Bartica man was shot dead and a miner who witnessed it was abducted. Just recently, a moneychanger was robbed and killed by bandits early in the morning a stone’s throw away from Parliament Building; a visiting cruise ship director was beaten and robbed on returning to where the vessel was docked and there were reports on social media of a mob allegedly robbing a few foreigners at a city car park, which has become notorious for robberies and which continues to seemingly go unchecked by the authorities.
In the past, there were even reports that some schoolchildren were robbed of their lunch money. The question of safety is one Guyanese continue to grapple with as fear grows with every passing day. Some frustrated residents are of the opinion that their safety does not matter. When the Berbice situation is taken into consideration, especially when, reportedly, criminal acts were perpetuated even as officials were present in the county, residents cannot be faulted for feeling that way.
Shortly after that outreach, it was reported that some suspects were arrested following a Police operation. More than likely, the crime situation in Berbice would have been brought to attention during the said outreach. It seems fair to ask whether the authorities were aware of the situation prior to the Government engagement.
Surely, they must have known; therefore, the question must be asked: why wasn’t it done before? With that in mind, could it be that the operation was to demonstrate a swift response from the outreach to show the Government listens and takes action?
If there is any truth in that, then there is serious cause for worry since it can suggest that prior cries, through media reports and the victims, probably went unheeded. Similar sentiments are warranted for the situation at the city car parks given the continuous rampage of criminal activities there. Many are asking, why does it continue given the Government’s boast of being able to combat crime? Where is safe in Guyana with crime unabated?
These seem fair questions from fearful Guyanese; questions for which the Government and the citizens will have different answers. The sad irony from Sri Lanka is that on the day the resurrection was celebrated, many were killed. The value of human lives is, therefore, questioned. That question of value is posed to the Government here.